Donell Hall was driving to work when he experienced another one of the massive headaches that would leave him temporarily unable to speak clearly. He managed to park, get out of his car and lie on the ground to wait for help. He was just able to function enough to call 911 and say a few words that would lead the operator to determine his location. Hall remembers police arriving on the scene and then waking up in the hospital.
After a series of tests, doctors told Hall he had a massive brain tumor that needed immediate treatment. Hall had been experiencing these headaches since the age of 14 and he had always thought the speech loss was a side effect of a bad migraine headache. As he approached his late 20’s, the headaches became more frequent, occurring 2-3 times per year.
Hall first met Dr. Shawn Hervey-Jumper and some of the Functional Wellness Initiative team members as he was being prepared for surgery to remove the tumor. As a TV/video/broadcast producer and business owner, the ability to speak is critical to Hall’s work and his livelihood. The team understood this and spent much time discussing how Hall could retain his language skills after surgery. They also anticipated the added complexity of radiation and chemotherapy to shrink the remaining tumor that would not be able to be removed without risking long-term speech loss.
“The team was fantastic. They spent a lot of time prepping me for post -surgery to make sure I would be able to talk like I did before the surgery,” says Hall who is now 30 years old. “If I can’t speak quickly and have people understand me, my job is over.”
After his surgery in November 2014 to remove the tumor, Hall continued working regularly with a speech pathologist to improve his language skills and his memory. Although less frequently now, he still visits the Functional Wellness Program about once a month and was able this past summer. “My language is coming back – I still forget a lot. But I’ve got most of it back. I feel good,” says Hall with a smile.