What started as an ophthalmologist appointment in July 2018 for a little bit of vision loss in one eye sparked a long medical journey that landed Jesus Velazquez, 61, from McAllen, Texas at Dell Seton Medical Center.
Velazquez was diagnosed with pituitary adenoma, a tumor on the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland is a pea-sized organ at the base of the brain that produces hormones that regulate various organ systems. While the tumor itself is benign, it can push on many of the important structures surrounding the pituitary gland, such as the optic nerve, or by over-secreting one of the several hormones the pituitary gland is in charge of making and cause symptoms such as fatigue, unexplained weight changes, behavioral changes and double vision, among others.
By the time of Velazquez’s diagnosis, the tumor had already grown to the size of a half dollar. He said that he was initially nervous about the diagnosis because he didn’t know its exact effects. Velazquez said he was also reluctant to tell his family about the diagnosis.
“I tried to play it off,” Velazquez said. “I started making jokes out of what could happen just to calm them down. I didn’t want anybody worrying about me.”
Velazquez’s family worried anyway. His daughter, Sabrina Garcia, who lives here in Austin and is a 2009 UT graduate, started doing some research into pituitary adenoma and looking for specialists, when she found that Dell Seton had the experience and technology to treat her dad’s condition.
When his daughter told him about Dell Seton, Velazquez made an appointment with Dr. Ramsey Ashour, neurosurgeon and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care. He explained to the Velazquez family everything they needed to know about what was happening and the surgery that could be done to remove the tumor.
“After talking with (Ashour), I became more calm and my confidence came back up knowing that something could be done about (the tumor),” Velazquez said. “So we decided to go ahead and have that surgery.”
Ashour said that the surgery was a team effort between himself and ear, nose and throat doctor Matthew Meigs. He said that the goal of the surgery was to remove the majority of the tumor and take the pressure off Velazquez’s optic nerves to restore his vision. Ashour noted that Velazquez saw significant improvement in his vision after surgery and that his pituitary gland seems to be working fine with no post-operative complications.
“In short, this was a win, and it has been our privilege to take care of (Velazquez),” Ashour said.
Both Ashour and Meigs said Dell Seton has unique aspects about it that make this type of surgery easier for both the physicians and patients.
“One advantage of working though Dell Med is the commitment of the University to providing state-of-the-art care to its patients,” Meigs said. “There is a lot of advanced technology available to help us visualize the tumor. Having access to this technology makes our job easier and facilitates improved patient outcomes.”
According to Ashour, Velazquez had access to a multidisciplinary team throughout his treatment, and the greatness of UT’s medical teams is growing due to the new medical school.
“We are attracting more academically-oriented skull base fellowship-trained physicians devoted to the concept of a skull base team, a concept which ultimately benefits our patients and the central Texas community at large,” Ashour said.