Jason VanBenschoten was having a wonderful day and living a wonderful life. His wife Bethany was four months pregnant, and he had just spent an afternoon at the movies with his nephew before heading to a Relay for Life event at Utica College to help raise money for cancer research.
He didn’t know it as he was driving home from the event, but the events of the next few hours would forever change the course of his life.
“I had an undiagnosed brain tumor and when I got home, the tumor hemorrhaged inside of my head causing me to lose consciousness and a lot of blood/pressure inside of my head,” he recalls. “I had experienced small, not really painful headaches and occasional hearing loss, but I never thought it could be a brain tumor.”
Dr. Nicholas Qandah and his team at Central New York Brain and Spine Neurosurgery performed an emergency brain resection to remove the high grade glioma.
“I remember getting the call when Jason came in, Bethany, who was pregnant imploring me to save her husband so he could meet their baby,” recalls Dr. Qandah, who has offices in Rome and New Hartford. “We immediately took the necessary steps to decrease the pressure in his skull and rushed him into surgery.”
“After several hours of surgery, we were able to successfully remove the tumor,” Dr. Qandah explains. “Any time you are dealing with an emergent situation like this, it isdelicate and calls for expertise and patience. I am proud of my team and the fact that we were able to successfully navigate this problem right here in the Mohawk Valley.
A lot has changed for Jason in the weeks and months since his surgery. “First and foremost, I was able to watch my son Teddy enter this world,” he says. “I imagine the time when my tumor hemorrhaged and my wife was facing the real possibility of her son growing up without a father. I was in a coma and she was preparing for my death. She told me that the moment Dr. Q went into the waiting room and let everyone know that I had opened my eyes, was amazing.”
For VanBenschoten, waking up from his ordeal was a wonderful first step in the recovery which continues today. “Unfortunately, when I woke up, I could not walk,” he explains. “I have since undergone rehab and I walk unassisted today and I have a little speech problem which makes it a bit tough to read to my son. The hemorrhage also pushed some blood into my right eye which impairs my vision a bit, but everything is slowly healing.”
“The main thing for Jason is that he’s alive, he’s strong and he’s healing,” says Dr. Qandah. “His story is one which I will never forget and represents the very reason we get into medicine - to make a difference in our patient’s lives.”
Today, Jason looks forward to returning to work as a software engineer. While his limited vision has impaired his ability to see a computer screen well enough to perform the coding work his job requires, he is beginning a master’s program at Utica College. “This program will allow me to continue in the field but require much less coding,” he explains. “So, I look forward to getting back to work and being unlimited in caring for my son. I would also like to continue my hobbies which include woodworking and fixing cars at my home.”
“The first time I met Dr. Qandah, was him yelling my name as I awoke from my coma,” VanBenschoten recalls. “In the months since, he has become my favorite doctor. He is such a good doctor and such a great human being. He has hugged me and gave a fist pump like my surviving was as important to him as it was for me. I did not properly meet him until I returned from Pennsylvania where I underwent radiation treatment, but whenever I see him, we reminisce about the surgery time and he hugs me to let me know he is happy I am still here.”
While his current walking limitations have impaired his ability to carry his son, Jason is thankful for the opportunity he has to be a father. “I get to hold and feed him, but I am off balanced so I have only been able to walk with him once” he says. It was Christmas Eve and my wife held me for balance and stability the entire time, but it was super emotional for me. I should have died, and I got to carry my son.”
In addition to general neurosurgery, Dr. Qandah treats patients with back and neck pain, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and herniated discs. He has special interest and expertise in minimally invasive spine surgery, complex spine surgery, and surgery for scoliosis. Fellowship trained in complex and minimally-invasive spine surgery, Dr. Qandah has expertise in regenerative and less invasive treatment of the spine.
Dr. Qandah is Director of Neurosciences at Rome Memorial Hospital and Mohawk Valley Health System. He performs procedures in Rome Memorial Hospital and at the St. Luke’s Campus of MVHS. He has offices in New Hartford at 83 Genesee St, in Rome at Chestnut Commons, 107 E. Chestnut Street, Suite 105. Dr. Qandah also has limited office hours in Lowville as well as Canton.For more information, call 315-792-7629.