Family hopes Canadian diagnosed with brain tumour in Thailand will have surgery this week
TORONTO -- The family of a man who was diagnosed with a serious brain tumour while vacationing in Thailand hopes he will be able to undergo surgery this week.
Kitchener, Ont. resident Alex Witmer and his wife, Jennifer Witmer arrived in Ottawa Saturday evening after a long and arduous journey in an air ambulance.
Alex’s mother, Amanda Witmer, told CTV News Kitchener on Sunday that her son “did really well” and is undergoing tests at the Ottawa Civic Hospital.
“We met the surgeon last night and we are just waiting for more tests and see where we are going to go from there. We don’t know a lot yet but he is definitely doing well and is stable,” she said.
The couple had decided to go on a six-week trip to Thailand before relocating from New Brunswick to Toronto. About a month into their trip, Alex began to suffer from a severe migraine and went to the hospital.
After the doctors completed a couple of scans, the couple was told that Alex had a massive, cancerous tumour inside his brain and required immediate surgery. Alex was given medication to reduce the pressure inside his head, giving him a few days in which it was safe to fly home with a medical staff.
Meanwhile, their insurance company, Allianz Global Assistance, initially rejected the $265,000 air ambulance flight home because Alex had reported a headache while visiting a hospital in Moncton while he had a flu a month earlier. A few days later, the company reversed the decision.
Alex’s condition quickly deteriorated and doctors had to insert a drain into his head in order to relieve enough pressure for him to fly safely.
"Alex is feeling much more himself now that he’s adjusting to the decreased pressure," Jennifer told CTV News Toronto from the hospital on Friday. "All he wants right now is to be home and see his family."
The couple left Koy Samui around 9 p.m. on Friday and landed in Ottawa around 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“We were just so thrilled to see them and to see that he looked great,” Amanda said. “I mean he still has a tan, you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong looking at him, but there is.”
“He’s been really brave.”
Amanda said that the surgeon hopes that after few more tests, Alex will be able to undergo surgery this week. Once he has recovered, Amanda said, he can return to Kitchener and will have chemotherapy or radiation treatment if needed.
For the past week, Jennifer has been sleeping on a bench in the hospital waiting for news that Alex can fly home. Amanda told CTV News on Sunday that she thinks her daughter-in-law is “relieved to be able to finally rest.”
“She has been carrying a lot on her shoulders by herself over in Thailand for a week and a bit,” Amanda said. “She can finally let this go because she was on high alert for the last week and a half. Now she can rest knowing that Alex is in good care. We are just thrilled that we can take that burden a little bit from her now.”
A GoFundMe page originally set up to try and fund the couple’s trip home has since raised more than $80,000 to help with Alex’s care.
With files from CTV News Kitchener