“We Found Answers at Hatch’s”

At the age of 11, Michael Sullivan was diagnosed with Craniopharyngioma.  This benign tumor growing on his pituitary gland had been manufacturing water-filled cysts in his skull, not only displacing his brain within the skull, but also attaching to the optical nerve and causing him to lose sight in one eye.  Upon diagnosis, his parents Susan and Barry Sullivan set out to find the best doctors in the country to treat their son.  Michael underwent surgery in Memphis to remove and or deflate each cyst within his skull.  Because the tumor itself had meshed completely with the pituitary gland, it could not be removed.  The Sullivans, once again, looked for the most advanced and best treatment they could find to treat the tumor.  Their search landed them at MD Anderson where Michael received proton beam radiation, a treatment at the forefront of radiation therapy that is only available at a handful of places in the US.

The goal of the radiation was to shrink and or kill the tumor so that it could no longer produce the cysts within his skull.  The treatment was successful, and the Sullivans returned home to Cleveland, TN.  As two years past, Michael was still getting great reports from his doctors.  The reports from his teachers, however, were not so good.  Susan and Barry knew that something was wrong based on Michael’s poor performance in school and his behavior.  Susan could not get any answers from the doctors.  Another year passed, and in spite of his continued physical health, Susan knew her son needed help.  Finally, one of Michael’s doctors told her to see a Neuropsychologist.  Knowing that weekly visits would be required, Susan started looking for a doctor at Vanderbilt University, assuming they would have the best programs in the region.  To her surprise, the doctors at Vanderbilt referred her to Hatch’s House of Hope in Chattanooga.

Their first visit to Hatch’s was a turning point for Michael and his family.  “Michael had a surgeon, he had an endocrinologist, he had a radiologist,” said Susan.  “We had a team of doctors helping us, but none could help us with Michael’ behavioral problems.  We got to Hatch’s and we got answers.”  When they started coming to Hatch’s, Michael was close to failing out of school, and his immaturity was a huge problem.  Within 6-8 weeks of working with Dr. Ryan Thompson at Hatch’s, his teachers could see improvement.  By the end of the semester, Michael’s performance in school, as well as his attitude, had improved tremendously.

When the Sullivans arrived at Hatch’s, the doctors asked them to commit to the therapy to allow for the best outcome.  Susan was reluctant.  “I was doubtful that any services offered to us free of charge would be helpful,” said Susan.  “ I just assumed that you get what you pay for.”  It did not take long before Susan realized how wrong she was.  Now a year later, Michael is a thriving sophomore at Cleveland High School.  He is making all Bs and Cs, and has learned strategies on how to approach situations that are difficult for him.   He has even made new friends that have similar medical issues through Austin Hatcher Foundation events.  Best of all, he has the Hatch’s staff to call if he ever has any other problems.  “There was a hole in Michael’s life that Hatch’s filled,” said Susan.  “They have been there to help him emotionally and retrain his brain for him to succeed.  Dr. Thompson has been just as crucial in his life as the doctors that removed the cysts and shrunk the tumor.”