WANE 15’s Tony Sandleben has been away from Fort Wayne since October. He got brain surgery to remove a tumor and a cyst from his brain. The following is a description of what he went through in his own words.
What began as dizziness after a nosebleed turned into a two month journey and a trying time for my family and me.
I didn’t think I had anything severely wrong with me, even when I passed out at home, but after a big push by one of our weekend producers (now our Nightcast producer Elizabeth Cotter), I got a ride from Kaitor Kay to medcheck. Medcheck said I needed a brain scan so they told me to go to the emergency room. So we went to Parkview Randallia’s emergency room.
They acted quickly, immediately putting me in a wheelchair and taking me back to the ER. They hooked me up to a heart monitor. Then I waited to get the scan.This whole time, I was thinking all of this was way more than necessary. I just thought I was dizzy.
Then i got the brain scan and waited for the results. The doctor came in with the results and said the words no one wants to hear from a doctor: “I’m going to be blunt with you.”
He proceeded to tell me they had found a growth on my brain that was putting so much pressure between my brain and skull that my brain had shifted, thus causing my dizziness and loss of consciousness. They said they needed an MRI to get more information.
The MRI showed the growth was a brain tumor with a cyst growing on it. The neurosurgeon gave me a few options. He said we could just drain the cyst and leave the tumor alone, do nothing at all or go in and try to remove whatever they could. The tumor was growing on my optic nerve so they would not be able to fully remove it all without risking total blindness or a stroke. I decided to have the surgeon try to remove everything he could.
He then told me he would have me transferred to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis because they were better equipped for this kind of surgery. By this time my father had come up from Fishers to see me at around 12:30 that night an ambulance arrived to take me to Methodist Hospital.
Methodist is a trauma 1 hospital in downtown Indianapolis meaning its emergency room was full of people with life threatening injuries and conditions. That was a little overwhelming. I got lucky with the neurosurgeon there. He is world-renowned for his work. My cousin who works in the medical field in Baltimore had heard of him and told me he was the best at what he does. The day finally came for surgery. it just so happened to be on Halloween. The neurosurgeon told me this would not be a life threatening operation, but it could be a life changing one. The surgery lasted about four hours.
When I woke up, I got a real scare. I could not move my left arm at all. I thought I had had a stroke in surgery and that i would have to deal with left-side paralysis for the rest of my life. Luckily that was temporary and I am able to move everything as normal.
I was in the hospital for a total of almost two weeks. Unfortunately, during that time, I missed out on helping with WANE 15’s election coverage something I am very passionate about being a part of.
Recovery quickly became a complicated process. I was sent to in-patient rehab for a day. The staff there felt I was essentially too healthy for them to help me so they released me. I then went to an out-patient facility in Indianapolis. I went there roughly twice a week for occupational therapy to learn how to function with left peripheral blindness. Since the tumor was on my optic nerve, removing part of the tumor gave me a condition called homonymous hemianopsia, or visual field loss on the same side of both eyes.
I had to learn to drive again and to read again with this deficit. On December 31st, 2018 I was released from therapy and today January 7th, 2019, I am back to reporting at WANE 15.
The neurosurgeon was not able to remove all of the tumor. From here, I will see an oncologist at the end of the month to make sure no chemo or radiation treatments will be necessary. My neurosurgeon does not think either will be. I will also get another MRI in May to see if the tumor has grown back. My neurosurgeon says that is unlikely.