Jarrod San Angel: Waking Up Thankful
"Did I just have a seizure?" That is what Jarrod San Angel, 43, asked his girlfriend, Clara, on October 4, 2018. The New York City couple had been watching television at Mr. San Angel's apartment in Queens when he began stuttering and couldn't stop. Then a spasm that had started in his left leg spread throughout his body. He began convulsing and momentarily blacked out.
When he awoke, he felt peaceful, but found that he had vomited. Clara took him to the emergency room at Mount Sinai Queens, where CT and MRI imaging identified a brain tumor the size of a cherry along the surface of the top right side of his skull, known as a convexity meningioma. Although it appeared to be a benign tumor, it needed to be removed. "My blood ran cold when I heard the news, and I was very anxious I would have another seizure," says Mr. San Angel, an academic advisor and a professor of food and culture for City University of New York.
He recalls that the only symptom he had experienced in the months before the discovery was feeling “down in the dumps” and "not quite himself" — which can be explained, in part, by this particular tumor, which resides in an area of the brain that controls movement and mood. He was referred to Joshua B. Bederson, MD, the Leonard I. Malis, MD/Corinne and Joseph Graber Professor of Neurosurgery and Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery for the Mount Sinai Health System. "If you're going to have brain surgery, you want it to be by someone who's highly regarded, like Dr. Bederson," Mr. San Angel says.
He reached out to Leslie Schlachter, PA-C, Chief Physician Assistant and Clinical Director in the Department of Neurosurgery, who arranged for him to be transferred to The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. There, guided by Ms. Schlachter, he was able to use the department's Virtual Reality Brain Tumor Simulator to take a virtual tour inside his own brain. "It was equal parts terrifying and fascinating," Mr. San Angel says. "But it showed me that the tumor was in an accessible place." That information, plus the support of Dr. Bederson and Ms. Schlachter, he says, put him at ease and helped him to understand what to expect. "They were extremely attentive and kind, and I felt genuinely cared for," he notes.
On October 11, 2018, one week after his seizure, Dr. Bederson made an incision across the top of Mr. San Angel's skull to remove the benign tumor, a grade 2 meningioma. After the four-hour procedure, the first person Mr. San Angel saw when he woke up from the anesthesia was Clara. He remembers telling her, "Baby, you're here!" Clara and his family would go on to help Mr. San Angel as he recuperated. "Their support got me through an emotionally challenging situation," he adds.
It took Mr. San Angel four months to regain his strength and return to work. Since then, he has resumed his regular workouts with a personal trainer and hobbies such as cooking. He experiences some occasional forgetfulness (which is not uncommon after such a surgery), takes an anticonvulsant drug to reduce his risk of seizures, and sees Dr. Bederson for annual follow-up visits. He is extraordinarily grateful for the care he received at Mount Sinai. "I'm very thankful for the chance to live a normal life, and I do not take my health for granted," says Mr. San Angel. "Through the care and guidance of my doctors and my team, I wake up every day feeling grateful for the chance to live my life."