Mitchell D. Hinckle
Mitch was 9 years old when he started getting some headaches. It was April of 2003, and he also had some vomiting without warning. We thought maybe he was getting migraines, or he needed glasses, so we started with an eye appointment. The eye doctor noticed some swelling of his optic nerves and wanted to send him to see an ophthalmologist.
We went the next day, and the ophthalmologist ordered a CAT scan. I was still not really alarmed, just a little concerned. Then the CAT scan people wanted to add some dye for contrast, and I thought O.K., what is going on here. I called Mitch's dad and told him something was wrong with Mitch and he needed to leave work and come quick. It took forever for the doctor to come in and explain why we were there. She said it looked like Mitch had a large brain tumor and it was causing hydrocephalus to occur and that's why he was having the headaches. I could not believe it. I just sat there for a minute and asked her what else it could be. She said nothing. They wanted to send us immediately to Doernbechers Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon. So we went, my husband met us up there, and then we were thrown into the world of having a very sick child who needed major brain surgery the next day.
Mitch had to have an MRI that night to help determine the size of the tumor and to aid in the surgery. He was feeling great the whole time we were there, so it seemed so strange that this was happening. I mean his symptoms were so mild that I was not prepared for this life-altering event. The next day was May 15th, 2003 and Mitch had his first surgery. It lasted 10 hours. The surgeon told us she thought she got most of it, but it was very large, and it had fingers that went out into normal brain tissue. The next MRI would reveal how much was left. And so the next day we had another MRI that showed at least 25% was left and she had to go back in to remove the rest. So we waited until that Monday which was May 19th, 2003, to do the second surgery. This one only lasted 6 hours.
Now it was time for recovery. It was a long and hard road. He started out only being able to move a finger, and he would do this to answer yes and no. Then he moved up to thumbs up and thumbs down. Pretty soon he could lift his arms and legs. The physical therapists worked with him every day in the ICU. He had a drain tube in his head to relieve the pressure and a feed tube put in for nourishment. He also had what is called cerebellar mutism, a temporary inability to talk, post surgery. It took about 2 ½ weeks to move out of the ICU and up to a regular room. We then went to another hospital for rehab.
At the rehab hospital he had intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy. He improved every day, but still could not speak. So we started teaching him sign language. He was getting pretty good at it. We left the hospital 2 ½ weeks later, finally to return home. He improved greatly after getting home. He played with his little brother, and his close friends, and that was the best physical therapy of all. On July 7th, almost 3 months after surgery, Mitch started making words. He could say one word at a time, very slowly. We were so thrilled. Everyday since then has been better than the one before. He talks all the time now, and it is starting to sound like normal. He is currently on Chemo, because there is about 5% of the tumor that they couldn't get with surgery. His type of tumor is called a mixed glioma, with about 95% of it being Oligodendroglioma, which reacts well to Chemo. We are very hopeful that it will kill the remaining tumor cells and Mitch will go on with his life. He starts school in a couple of weeks and is doing fantastic. He gets a little tired from the Chemo, but other than that he is getting back to his old self, slowly but surely. He is a success story to us because he has shown such bravery in his recovery and he is so determined to do all the old things that he used to do.