By Alyce Collins
THIS STUDENT was taken to hospital following a car accident when routine scans revealed the more frightening prospect of a BRAIN TUMOUR, but after undergoing brain surgery and many scans, he no longer takes anything for granted after almost having his life taken from him.
Student Drew Gunby (21) from Texas, USA, was involved in a car accident in January 2013, however it was only as a result of hospital scans after the crash which led doctors to find a cancerous mass on Drew’s brain.
At the age of 15, Drew was riding in a friend’s car when the driver swerved and lost control of the car, crashing into a fence. Drew, who was sat in the back, flew forwards and split open his chin, requiring a trip to the nearest hospital for stitches.
After he had stitches in his chin, medical staff suggested a CT scan to make sure there was no internal damage, such as broken bones, from the crash. The CT scan identified a mass on Drew’s brain, to the alarm of the nurses who sent him for a subsequent MRI scan which confirmed that the mass was a cancerous tumour.
Drew was scheduled to have a craniotomy to remove the mass a few days later, however his surgeon was called in for an emergency operation elsewhere, delaying Drew’s craniotomy. This gave Drew longer to consider other options which led him to search for other surgeons.
After meeting with other brain surgeons, Drew opted for the one with whom he felt a strong connection with, and ultimately underwent surgery to have the tumour removed on January 30, 2013.
Now, Drew lives with a physical scar on his chin and a hole in his brain, in addition to the emotional scars from learning that any day could be the last. Going through such a difficult experience at such a young age helped him learn not to take anything for granted.
“I was 15 years old and was riding with a group of friends in one of their cars,” said Drew.
“Around five minutes into the ride, the driver lost control of the car, swerving left and right, at around 50mph, crashing into a fence. I flew from the very back of the car to the middle seats.
“The windshield was completely destroyed, and the car was totalled. I sliced my chin open and ended up going to the hospital by ambulance to get stitches. I was the only one who needed medical attention to the extent of stitches.
“I was in a lot of pain. My chin was burning badly, and my back was hurting severely. The impact of the car crash was the most physical pain I had ever endured.
“After they’d done the stitches, I got a CT scan to look for broken bones, and that’s when they found what looked like a tumour in my brain. They sent me to an MRI and confirmed it was a brain tumour.
“I started crying immediately. It was extremely scary hearing I could have a tumour in such a serious part of my body, and it was probably one of the few moments of weakness I allowed myself to have during this whole experience.
“The tumour was five-and-a-half centimetres in size, and I was told I could have had it anywhere between two months and two years. There was no way of knowing though.
“I was supposed to have brain surgery a few days later but the surgeon was called in for an emergency surgery, so it was postponed. During this extra time, we decided to get a second opinion about my options.
“I had to decide between two different surgeons. The first wanted to do a biopsy before the surgery which would take longer, and the longer you are under for, the more likely it is for complications to occur.
“That was a deciding factor, but also I was given a fairy doll as a funny gift from my friend who visited me. I was holding it in my hand when talking with both doctors. I noticed that the first doctor would look at the fairy doll in my hand when he talked but never mentioned it. He probably thought I was an odd child.
“Whereas, the first thing the second doctor said was ‘nice fairy’. Something in my heart said I should choose him, and I’m so glad I did.”
Drew’s craniotomy was on January 30, 2013, just three days after the crash which changed his life forever.
Although his recovery was difficult at the time, it was manageable and hasn’t left him with any permanent complications. Although he was only 15, Drew had to manoeuvre a very trying period which taught him that regardless of what he is going through, life must go on.
“I was out of the hospital a little over a week after surgery. That’s one reason I was grateful that I was so young at the time, was for recovery. Younger people recover much faster and easier,” said Drew.
“I was very behind in school work, but besides that, life kept going on. I learned that no matter what happens in your life that brings you to a stop, life won’t stop for anything.
“If I didn’t have that minor crash, the brain tumour would have gone unnoticed for longer, possibly not until I had a seizure to indicate a brain tumour. By then, it would’ve been much bigger.
“It’s something I’m still processing mentally and emotionally to this day, but it opened my eyes to my morality. Life can’t be taken for granted.
“It has shown me that life can be taken from you at any moment, for no apparent reason. I want to live everyday as if it’s my last, and if I have several days where I ask myself ‘if today was your last day, did you do what you wanted to do?’ and the answer is no, I know I must change it.
“I no longer seek to find a job that makes me the most money as there are plenty of miserable people with millions in their bank accounts. I seek to find my passion and do that for the rest of my life, even if it means not having as nice materials as others.
“You should never take any aspect of life for granted, as it can all be gone in the blink of any eye.”