Our son Matthew was always a healthy, active child who enjoyed the most out of life. In late 2012, when he was 9 years old, Matthew was complaining of headaches, which we thought was from the palate expander recently implanted by his orthodontist. As time went on Matthew’s headaches grew worse, he developed severe anxiety, and his grades in school dropped sharply. By January 2013, he developed fever and nausea. On January 26, 2013 we took him to the emergency room at Overlook Hospital after he became incoherent. It was then that he was diagnosed with a mass in his brain. Matthew was immediately transferred to Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, where we met Dr. Alex Post, a neurosurgeon at NJPNI. From the outset, he explained to us in detail our son’s condition, which was a tumor in his brainstem. He allayed our worst fears by proposing surgery to biopsy and remove as much of the tumor as safely as possible. We agreed to go ahead with the procedure; two days later, Dr. Post performed the surgery, and achieved partial resection of the tumor. Additionally, the biopsy indicated that the lesion was a pilocytic astrocytoma, a low grade tumor. Matthew then underwent another surgery for the emplacement of a VP shunt to alleviate the hydrocephalus that resulted from the tumor.
While both surgeries were successful in stabilizing his condition, Matthew had developed weakness on the right side of his body, which left him unable to walk and use his right arm. Dr. Post assured us that he would find the best care possible to aid in Matt’s recovery. He then recommended transferring Matthew to Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ, for intensive rehabilitation to regain use of his right arm and leg. A few weeks later, Matthew was walking on his own, and a couple months after that, was writing with his right hand again and returned to school, completing fourth grade alongside his classmates.
Because of the quality care that Dr. Post has given or recommended for Matthew, he is now thriving in school full time in the fifth grade, and competes for his school’s cross country, basketball, and track and field teams. He’s back with his family and friends and enjoying life, thanks to Dr. Post, who to this day regularly follows up with Matthew to ensure he enjoys the best possible health.
Steve and Kathy Yautz
Friday, August 26, 2011 was the most terrifying day of our lives. A routine doctor’s visit for our twins ended up becoming our worst nightmare. Our amazing pediatrician noticed something amiss with Lucas’s head and sent us immediately to Morristown Memorial Hospital for an ultrasound. From the ultrasound Lucas was then sent for a CAT scan and this is when we met the most wonderful doctor and person, Dr. Catherine Mazzola. At seven and a half months old our little boy had a brain tumor and needed surgery immediately. Dr. Mazzola and her team, which was comprised of Dr. Lauren Schwartz and physician’s assistant Tom Sernas, performed three surgeries on Lucas while he was in the hospital.
Dr. Mazzola was a gift from God during this awful time. She answered all of our questions and made sure we understood everything Lucas was undergoing. Eight months after the initial surgery there was a little “hiccup” with Lucas’s shunt. Dr. Mazzola eased our minds and performed a shunt revision immediately.
Every three months we visit with Dr. Mazzola and Tom at the Valerie Fund Tumor Clinic. We look forward to seeing them and showing them how Lucas is a “normal” little boy, like nothing happened. We are forever grateful for Dr. Mazzola. She will always be like family to us; she saved our son’s life.
When I found out I had a tumor in my skull, I was devastated. Having to get surgery on my head was definitely not how I planned on starting my summer. Dr. Mazzola was my hero throughout this experience and I would not have chosen any other doctor to do this surgery. She explained to me that I was going to have a craniotomy and cranioplasty. Dr. Mazzola was very easy to trust because she was very informing and kept assuring me that I was going to be fine. My surgery went well and Dr. Mazzola checked on me multiple times while I was in pediatric intensive care. She promised me I would not be in any pain, and she kept that promise. Two days after surgery, I was at the mall shopping with friends and it’s all thanks to Dr. Mazzola. If you choose Dr. Mazzola to be your neurosurgeon, just know that you are in good hands.
We met Dr. Mazzola the night we found out our ten month old daughter had a brain tumor. We were absolutely terrified. We had no idea what to expect. We had no choice to but trust our daughters’ life to Dr. Mazzola. She was very reassuring, certain that she could help our daughter. Surgery was the next morning. It was a complete success! Emily did have a seizure post operatively. Late that evening Dr. Mazzola rushed back to Morristown. The look on her face was as if Emily were her own daughter, full of concern over what had happened. She reassured us Emily would be fine, and she was. We went home where she recovered beautifully.
Emily was diagnosed with hydrocephalus as a result of the tumor and had to have a shunt placed. This was four and a half years ago, and our daughter is a perfectly healthy 5 year old who just started kindergarten. There was never a moment that I didn’t feel confident and comfortable with Dr. Mazzola and her wonderful staff. I would recommend her to anyone in a heartbeat. Not only is she a wonderful surgeon, she is a wonderful woman. I’m not sure how she does what she does, but I am certainly very happy that she does!