For Christopher Titolo, the headaches began in the fall of 2011 when he started fourth grade. Doctors checked his eyesight and tested him for allergies, but Christopher was fine. After a severe headache accompanied by vomiting, his parents Vincent and Sue grew worried. They took him to see his pediatrician, who ordered an MRI.
That night, as the Titolos were getting ready for bed at their home in Guilderland, NY, the phone rang. It was his pediatrician. Christopher had hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid inside the brain.
“He told us Christopher had a very large tumor on his brain,” recalls Vincent, a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. “The tumor was blocking the cerebral fluid that drains from the brain. He was in a lot of danger.”
The couple rushed Christopher to the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center, where a team of doctors was waiting. “Six hours earlier he was playing basketball,” Vincent says. “Now, they were asking if he could walk or talk or move.”
It turned out Christopher had a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma, a life-threatening childhood brain tumor. The next morning, Albany Med pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Matthew Adamo began the 10-and-a-half hour procedure to remove the tumor. Thankfully, it turned out to be benign.
A day after the surgery, the doctors began reducing his sedatives, a process that was among the most stressful of the whole ordeal. “That’s what I remember most is the one night as he was coming out of sedation,” Vincent says. “There were so many unknowns. Can he see? Can he talk? We didn’t know how he would be transformed by the surgery.”
Time revealed that Christopher had done well. By the end of the weekend, he was sitting up and saying yes or no. After a month in Albany Med’s pediatric intensive care unit, Christopher started rehab. “It was just a big deal to see him walk for the first time,” Vincent says.
A year later, Christopher is back in school in the fifth grade at Pine Bush Elementary School and playing basketball. “He’s back to being a regular kid,” Vincent says.