How OHSU physicians teamed up to diagnose and treat a teen with a brain tumor

In the fall of 2013, 15-year-old Tigard High School sophomore Brandt Goetz suffered an apparent concussion during a youth tackle football game. A few weeks later, when he began suffering from headaches and blurred vision, his parents were convinced that something else was going on. Brandt's mother, Michelle Goetz, took him to see an eye doctor who then referred them to OHSU's Casey Eye Institute.

A week later, on a Friday, Brandt's father, Jason Goetz, took his son to Oregon Health & Science University's Department of Sports Medicine where he was evaluated for a standard concussion.  That same day, the teen was examined by neuro-ophthalmologist Julie Falardeau, M.D., who evaluates the visual signs and symptoms of complex neurological problems. After thoroughly reviewing Brandt's medical history, she noticed swelling in the optic nerves of both of his eyes.  She moved quickly to get Brandt in for an MRI that night. By 8 a.m. the next morning, she had discovered what was causing the blurry vision – a large brain tumor on Brandt's left temporal lobe.

Dr. Falardeau immediately contacted OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital pediatric neurosurgeon Lissa Baird, M.D. "In less than 15 minutes, she got back to me with a course of action that would lead to necessary surgery," says Dr. Falardeau. Knowing the Goetz family was anxious to learn what was going on, Dr. Falardeau called the family to break the news. She shared Dr. Baird's recommendations, and assured them that Brandt was in good hands.

The following Tuesday, Brandt was admitted to OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where he underwent surgery to successfully remove the tumor. Jason recalls, "We walked in with suitcases in hand like we were checking into a hotel. He was admitted and wheeled off to his room to prepare for his operation. It was the longest six hours of my life."

While waiting, Jason recalls asking one of the residents whether they would want Dr. Baird to perform the surgery on their son if he was in Brandt's position. Without missing a beat, the resident confidently said, "Absolutely."

By Thursday, Brandt was discharged with a full schedule of follow-up appointments with pediatric neuro-oncologist Rebecca Loret de Mola, D.O., including quarterly MRIs for a year. When Brandt and his family learned the tumor was benign, they breathed a tremendous sigh of relief.

Now, two years later, Brandt's dad says, "He's perfect. Other than a scar on the side of his head, you would never know heBrandt had a brain tumor. He has no side effects, his headaches are gone, his optic nerve swelling has resolved, his vision is back to normal and he didn't need cancer treatments. Although he can't play football, he is the Tigard High varsity football team manager and is able to play baseball. He is just a normal teenager."

Of the family's experience at OHSU, Brandt's father says, "As we went through the process, from seeing all the doctors to the first discharge, they made sure he was going home to a safe place, and that we knew what to expect. The tumor board helped coordinate all of Brandt's treatment. No rock was left unturned."

Recognizing that OHSU is an academic health center, Jason was impressed with the way Dr. Falardeau found teachable moments for her residents, then stepped in and took charge with compassion and care. "She took a bad situation and made it the best it could be," he says.

Since recovering from surgery, Jason says Brandt has taken to public speaking and has shared his experience in front of an audience of hundreds.  He says Brandt has a bright future in speechwriting, and life in general, thanks to his diagnosis and treatment at OHSU.