From Business Trip to Brain Tumor

To say it was a bad trip would be an understatement. Adam Carroll, 33, was in New York on business when he suddenly lost consciousness. “I was rushed to hospital—and not sure what happened,” he recalls, “but I woke up surrounded by paramedics.” Needless to say, this wasn’t on his itinerary—he’d come from the UK to work but had unwittingly taken a detour to the emergency room at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Unbeknownst to him, a brain tumor had taken up residence in his head some time earlier and had waited for this trip to announce itself to him. Brain tumors can be like that – as long as they have room to grow without affecting healthy brain tissue, they can develop without symptoms. Then, seemingly from out of the blue, they grow just that tiny bit more and press against a critical brain structure, and symptoms suddenly appear.

“It was a lucky turn of events that he was brought to us so quickly,” says Dr. Theodore Schwartz, a brain tumor specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine Brain and Spine Center who was on call that day. He adds, “If this had happened while he was on an airplane home, his outcome may have been tragically different.”

Being so far from home added to Adam’s feeling of disorientation and shock upon hearing the diagnosis. “I was playing scenarios out in my head,” he remembers. “Would I live? For how long? Have I done anything to cause this?” As he would soon learn, he had a world-renowned neurosurgeon to answer all his questions.

“I wasn’t aware of Dr. Schwartz’s status in the world of neurosurgery at first,” Adam says. But as he started to take stock of what had happened, he learned about Dr. Schwartz’s expertise and felt less frightened by his predicament. He was even optimistic about it, saying, “This happened at the right time and in the right place.”

Dr. Schwartz recommended immediate surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. That involved removing a portion of Adam’s skull and navigating to the tumor without damaging healthy brain tissue.  “We had to remove the tumor and give him time to recover before flying back to the United Kingdom,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Once he was back home, he could undergo radiation and chemotherapy as part of the standard of care for this type of tumor. “

Dr. Schwartz successfully removed the tumor, and after a short recovery period in New York Adam was able to return home to England. He took nine months off from work to complete radiation treatment, saying, “The whole experience has made me a better person—made me more aware of my health and looking after myself. I’ve taken up running and have ran two marathons and organized multiple fund-raising events.”  Adam’s story became widely known in England after he told it on the popular TV show there, “First Dates.”

“I’m so proud of him for making the most out of this,” says Dr. Schwartz. “He’s a powerhouse—he got on TV, ran marathons, and raised over 15,000 British pounds for brain tumor charities… You couldn’t ask for a better outcome than that!”

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