A Complex Brain Surgery Proves the Courage of the Patient and His Surgeon

February 20, 2018

When Travis Osting suffered from a life threatening brain hemorrhage that rendered him incapable of performing simple daily tasks, he was only 24 years old. The cause of the hemorrhage was an arteriovenous malformation, a congenital collection of abnormal blood vessels that tend to cause life-threatening hemorrhages in the brain.

Experiencing the worst headache of his life, Osting phoned girlfriend, Tricia Metzger, who was working as a nurse in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a Fort Wayne hospital. Vomiting and unable to walk, Travis’s condition continued to worsen.

“We went to the emergency room where he was then transferred to the same ICU I had been working just a few hours earlier,” said Tricia. “It was a scary and surreal moment.”

Following the brain hemorrhage, Travis lacked the coordination to stand, walk, read, feed himself, or even shower on his own.

Further examination revealed that the arteriovenous malformation was located near Travis’ brainstem—a control center for many critical functions of the human body, such as breathing, swallowing and even consciousness. Surgery on the brain is complex enough but the surgery of arteriovenous malformations are the most formidable and this one was located in the most critical and sensitive parts of Travis’s brain.

“We were referred to a local doctor in Fort Wayne, but since his AVM was near the brainstem, no one in our area felt comfortable operating on him,” said Tricia.

Thankfully, Travis was referred to Aaron Cohen-Gadol, MD, at IU Health Methodist Hospital. Cohen-Gadol specializes in treating complex brain tumors, aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations often considered inoperable by most surgeons in the country.

"This is definitely one of the most difficult surgeries we do in the most delicate parts of the brain,” says Cohen-Gadol, who led the five-hour surgery. “This operation tests the courage of the surgeon and the patient simultaneously.”

After the surgery, Travis made a swift and progressive recovery.

“IU Health Methodist Hospital meant so much to us not only because of Dr. Cohen-Gadol and everything he was able to do with Travis’s surgery and recovery but because of the entire hospital staff and the great care we received,” said Tricia. “God worked through their hands to give us the incredible blessing of being normal again.”

The experience inspired Tricia to write a book about their medical journey in the hope of inspiring others going through similar circumstances.

Her book, An eVeryday Miracle, was released on Sept. 25.

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Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

A congenital defect consisting of tangled veins and arteries that can occur anywhere in the body, blocking blood flow, including in the brain

Complex Brain Tumors

Complex brain tumors grow in hard-to-reach areas and may be attached to structures in and around the brain.