From Birthday Party to Brain Surgery, All in 24 Hours

Back to an Active Life After Brain Tumor

Logan giving a thumbs up in hospital bed

One minute Logan Schwaderer, age 11, was going to his little sister’s birthday party, and the next he was headed to Stanford Medicine Children’s Health for brain surgery.

“The plan that day was to get the scheduled MRI, then head to the party. We didn’t expect to hear results for a few days. Instead, they called us on the drive home to say that they saw a mass and that we needed to go straight to the emergency department at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health,” says his dad, Cory.

For a few months in the fall of 2021, Logan was having nausea, dizziness, headaches, and loss of balance. Because Cory comes from a family of doctors, he insisted on a brain MRI at his local medical center in Los Gatos, California. It was a good thing he did, since the MRI revealed a large tumor.

While the family waited in the emergency department, a nurse let them know that the neurosurgeon, Laura Prolo, MD, PhD, was coming to evaluate Logan. The name was music to Cory’s ears.

“I said, Dr. Prolo, as in Laura Prolo? I had gone to middle school and high school with her. I couldn’t believe it. I went out to look for her, and as she approached, she said, ‘Cory! Is Logan yours?!’ We recognized each other immediately, even though we had masks on and we hadn’t seen each other in 25 years,” Cory says.

For Cory, seeing Dr. Prolo was like seeing a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel. He knew his son would be in excellent hands with someone he calls ‘the best pediatric neurosurgeon on the planet.’

“It went from the worst day of my life to one of the best days of my life. Suddenly, it was go-time. Dr. Prolo was incredible. Because of her, I knew we didn’t have to worry,” Cory says.

Logan had what’s called a midline posterior fossa tumor, causing moderate obstructive hydrocephalus. What that means in simple terms is that he had a large, benign (nonmalignant) tumor at the base of his brain that was pressing on his brain stem and blocking the flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) between his brain and his spinal cord. Hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid in the brain, and it can be dangerous.

With these slow-growing tumors, it’s not unusual for patients to experience few symptoms until they develop hydrocephalus. That was what started Logan’s nausea, vomiting, and headaches in the morning—classic symptoms of increased pressure in the head caused by the tumor mass and blocked flow of cerebral spinal fluid.

Logan laying in hospital bed

Because of the hydrocephalus, surgery was needed urgently and was scheduled for the next morning. For the extensive surgery, Dr. Prolo started by placing a drain into the CSF spaces to relieve the pressure on the brain. This was followed by a craniotomy—the removal of a segment of the skull to provide access to the brain.

To carefully resect the tumor, Dr. Prolo used several advanced tools to ensure safe and accurate removal and to protect surrounding areas of Logan’s brain, including his motor and sensory tracts and cranial nerves. Once the tumor was out, Dr. Prolo put the bone piece back into place with absorbable plates and screws and obtained an MRI to confirm a total resection.

“There is a lot of advanced technology that we use at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford to make brain surgery safe for kids, including intraoperative stereotactic guidance, which works like GPS navigation to connect the patient’s anatomy that we see during surgery with the patient’s imaging. We also used MRI during surgery to ensure that all of the tumor was removed,” she says.

Dr. Prolo is thankful that she practices at a large pediatric center that specializes in children’s brain tumors. Not only does the neurosurgery team have access to one of the most advanced surgical facilities in the country, with the latest technology for brain surgery, but they are surrounded by pediatric brain and behavior experts at every turn, including neurologists, neuro-anesthesiologists, neurocritical intensive care specialists, neuro-radiologists, specially trained neurosurgical advanced practice providers, and nurses. To help children recover holistically, they can be seen by occupational, speech, and physical therapists; social workers; and child life specialists after surgery.

“We have an absolutely fantastic team that’s very caring, highly trained, and dedicated to providing the best possible care for children with disorders of the nervous system. Everything is in place for a great outcome,” Dr. Prolo says.

She also runs the Prolo Lab at Stanford University, which performs leading-edge research to find new treatments for childhood brain tumors.

Just two days after surgery, Logan was cracking jokes with his doctors and nurses and sharing his positive energy. His family is proud of how well he handled the situation. Fortunately for Logan, his tumor was benign and completely removed, meaning it should not come back and he should not need any additional treatments.

Logan with siblings and dog

“After surgery, Logan did awesome. Once he could get out of bed and he was eating, everything got better quickly. He’s been doing great ever since,” Cory says. “It worked out just as it should have, thank goodness.”

Logan is back to doing what he enjoys: being a big brother to his sister, Peyton, age 2, and his younger brother, Mason, age 4. He’s playing all kinds of sports, including baseball, soccer, football, and his favorite, basketball. Best yet, he no longer has headaches, dizziness, or nausea.

“He’s a brave, admirable, and inspiring boy,” Dr. Prolo exclaims. “His parents were so supportive and encouraging of him, and I’m happy that I could be there for one of my childhood friends, Cory.”

Besides his great sense of humor, Logan has a big heart. When he saw other kids who were sick while he was recovering from surgery, he wanted to help them feel better. “If I could, I would like to tell other kids with brain tumors that everything is going to be OK and that it will all be over soon,” Logan concludes.

Learn more about our Pediatric Neurosurgery services >


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)