Will Mishler lived the life of a normal eighth-grader until a football practice back in August put him on a slightly different path.
During that practice, another player’s helmet went under Will’s face mask and threw his neck back. It was an injury that would prove to be a blessing in disguise.
“I didn’t learn about it until later that evening after Will had already gone to bed,” said Will’s mother, Amy, who was away that night at a fire officer class. “Jim (her husband) said he just had neck pain, but he was mobile and had equal pupils.”
If that doesn’t sound like the language of most moms, it’s because Amy is talking from 20 years experience as a nurse and several years experience as an EMT and firefighter.
Even with Jim’s assurance that the injury was probably not serious, Amy couldn’t rid herself of a nagging feeling.
“It just didn’t sit comfortably with me,” Amy said. “He had a football game the next day and I didn’t want him to wear a heavy helmet on his head if he still had neck pain.”
Off to the doctor
So the day after his injury, on Aug. 28, Amy and Will headed to Bristol Street Pediatrics to see Dr. Mary Alice Reid.
“She was very proactive. She sent us right over to Elkhart General Hospital for an x-ray,” Amy said. “That night she called and told me that they had found a large chest mass in his right upper lobe. And when I asked her how large, she said, ‘Amy, it’s large.’”
After working in the nursing profession for two decades, Amy told Dr. Reid she didn’t want to mess around.
“No, we’re not,” Dr. Reid told Amy. “That’s why I called you right away.”
A CT scan the next day at Elkhart General confirmed the presence of the large mass. And even though the radiologist told Amy it was most likely fluid-filled and Will could probably go back to playing football, Amy was not convinced.
“It actually took up the whole right upper lobe of his lung,” Amy said. “A child does not have a large mass like that in their thoracic cavity.”
A pulmonologist and several oncologists from Memorial Hospital of South Bend looked over the x-rays and CT scan and recommended Will see a pediatric surgeon at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
The wait to see that doctor was filled with anxiety and stress for Will and his family.
“I noticed that after being a nurse for so many years and of being in the fire and medic service, that it is so different having to wait for referral appointments,” Amy said. “It was long and tedious type of anxiety.”
After meeting with the surgeon on Sept. 11, surgery to remove the mass was scheduled for Sept. 20.
“They were going to do a scope through his rib cage, but they ended up doing an open thoracotomy,” Amy said. “That’s where the doctor makes a large incision between his ribs and they retract the rib cage backwards to remove the mass.”