Sports Coach Wins His Life Back after Brain Surgery
Sports coach Tony DeVary
A survivor – that’s what Tony DeVary is. As a 3-year-old in Louisiana, DeVary was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Doctors told his parents that he had 36 hours to live but three months of radiation and chemotherapy saved his life. Decades later, DeVary’s battle took another form. The same treatment that saved him as a child had likely caused a tumor to grow in his brain.
In 2006, DeVary collapsed while coaching wrestling at Caesar Rodney High School in Delaware. He woke up later that day in a hospital and learned he had a brain tumor – all just two days before Christmas. So that he could enjoy the holiday with his wife Denise and their son John, DeVary convinced his doctors to postpone surgery until after the holiday. Most of his tumor (a grade one meningioma) was removed days later at a hospital in Delaware. Surgeons decided to leave some of it in place because of its dangerous location near a main blood vessel in his brain.
Over time, that part of the tumor continued to grow, as did concerns that it might be cancerous. In 2007, DeVary came to meet Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, M.D., a neurosurgeon and director of the Brain Tumor Surgery Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview. Dr. Quiñones monitored the tumor’s growth and then determined it needed to be removed. “Tony’s tumor was like a squid wrapped around his brain and it would not stop growing,” says Dr. Quiñones.
With the tumor’s increasing size, DeVary had daily headaches and sleepless nights. It was hard for him to function well at work and to keep coaching. “I called it ‘suffering well’ because I tried to be pleasant despite my pain,” says DeVary.
DeVary’s character and kind disposition make him a well-liked figure at work in the school. So on the day of DeVary’s surgery at Johns Hopkins Bayview, students and staff at Caesar Rodney High School gathered in his usual parking spot. Together they prayed for their beloved coach. Throughout the day, they sent text messages and photos to DeVary’s wife Denise, to keep her spirits up. “This amazing support was very uplifting to me and my family,” says DeVary.
Tony DeVary, son John and
While friends, family and students prayed, Dr. Quiñones worked carefully to remove the rest of DeVary’s tumor using specialized brain navigation tools similar to a GPS for the brain. When the surgery was complete, Dr. Quiñones used an intraoperative CT scanner to see detailed images of DeVary’s brain to confirm that the entire tumor was removed and all the major blood vessels were preserved.
“It was a team effort from the start,” says Dr. Quinones. “Tony and I were co-captains, and his family served as his coaches. The nurses, anesthesiologists and physician assistants were my teammates and together we all won this challenge.”
Dr. Quiñones was happy to report to Denise and John that the surgery was successful. “Words can’t express my excitement when I learned that Tony’s tumor was not cancerous and that it all was taken out. When he was able to do simple things like stick out his tongue and squeeze my hands, I felt like we’d won a major championship!” says Dr. Quiñones.
DeVary notes, “Other surgeons didn’t want to touch this tumor and considered it inoperable. Dr. Quiñones and his team were remarkable because they not only got it all, but they did it without any complications.”
Today, DeVary rarely has headaches and is able to exercise. And best of all, he looks forward to spending time as a soccer and wrestling coach and enjoying the holidays with his family.
“My life is completely different now thanks to Dr. Quiñones. His hands saved me and gave me my life back.”
Tony DeVary with his neurosurgeon,
Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa
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