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Lehighton Third Grader is Back in School After Summer Scare

Ethan Horst is swimming and playing soccer again after a Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital pediatric neurosurgeon takes care of his brain tumor

“There’s two of you Mom.”

When Julie Horst heard that from her 8-year-old son, Ethan, on a Saturday morning in mid-June, she knew it was time to make the drive from her Lehighton home to the Breidegam Family Children’s ER at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest as soon as possible.

“Ethan had episodes of nausea and headaches since right around the end of school in late May,” Julie Horst says of her then second grader at Lehighton Elementary Center. “The school nurse had called me following afternoon recess one day and said something wasn’t right with him. We had taken him to our family doctor and his initial tests looked normal. But Ethan was vomiting every few days and the headaches seemed to be getting worse. Our doctor told us to get him to the ER if this continued a few more days.”

Emergency care at the Children’s ER

When Ethan slept in unusually late on Saturday, June 15, his mom went to check on him. He told her his neck was bothering him, there was pain down his right arm, and he was seeing double. Julie and Jason Horst gathered up their son and drove to Allentown. When they arrived at the Breidegam Family Children’s ER, Ethan was having trouble walking.

“Imaging showed a large brain tumor in the posterior fossa (a space in the lower rear of the skull near the cerebellum),” says pediatric neurosurgeon David Hong, MD, with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital and Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute. “A tumor in this area also can block the flow of spinal fluid and cause increased pressure on the brain. That was happening with Ethan and causing his headaches.”

“This was a non-aggressive, benign tumor that we were able to remove completely. His long-term prognosis is very good.” - David Hong, MD

A ventriculostomy (essentially a procedure creating a drain for the fluid to relieve the pressure) was immediately performed on Ethan. Almost four days of drainage was required before Ethan was ready for surgery to remove the tumor.

“They had to put him on a ventilator as well,” Julie Horst says. “Ethan was so strong through the whole 13 days he spent in the hospital. He never cried once. We were so proud of him.”

Leading-edge brain surgery

On Wednesday, June 22, Ethan underwent a four-hour procedure to remove the tumor using microscopic surgery with stereotactic navigation, which precisely maps the location of the tumor to help determine the most effective way to remove it. This is one of the state-of-the-art procedures offered at the Neuroscience Institute.

“It was a best-case scenario for Ethan,” Hong says. “This was a non-aggressive, benign tumor that we were able to remove completely. His long-term prognosis is very good.”

Ethan needed a second procedure to insert a temporary drain to allow for fluid diversion in case of urgent accumulation.

Best (and worst) summer ever

By the end of summer, Ethan’s life was getting back to normal.

“He’s been able to get into the swimming pool a bit and he’ll be playing soccer again soon,” Julie Horst says. “He’ll be back in school for third grade with the rest of his classmates. Everything has gone really well. We’re very lucky.”

Ethan must visit with Dr. Hong every three months to make sure all is well.  That time interval will eventually be extended.

“We’ll follow up with him for 10 years,” Hong says. “The likelihood of recurrence with this kind of tumor is pretty low.”

Ethan isn’t too happy about not being able to do very much during his break from school.

“This has been the worst summer ever,” he says.

But he should have a lot of future summers to make up for it.

Pediatric Neurosurgery

You can find expert neurosurgical care for kids at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital.

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