When Gavin, 7, was only 5 years old, his parents began to notice odd changes in his behavior and his ability to use his eyes normally. They took him to the doctor and learned that Gavin had a benign, golf ball-sized tumor in the center of his brain.
Gavin was diagnosed with a mature teratoma, a rare congenital tumor that forms in the brain and consists of layered tissues that are present in an embryo, including elements of bone, cartilage and intestinal material. Although they are generally benign, due to their tendency to grow in the center of the brain, they may impact important functional tissue and can be fatal.
In Gavin’s case, although he underwent five craniotomies to remove as much tumor tissue as possible, and went through several rounds of chemotherapy, the tumor continued to grow back, prompting Gavin to nickname his tumor “Joe Bully.”
His parents, Steve and Nicole, became desperate for a solution that would save their son’s life. They discovered an experimental new drug that had shown promise in prohibiting the growth of mature teratomas in adults and were able to obtain permission for Gavin to begin using it.
At the same time, Gavin’s doctor, pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Petronio, discovered a groundbreaking new laser treatment called interstitial fiber therapy. The treatment would allow Dr. Petronio to target the tumor tissue more accurately by heating the tissue and monitoring it in real time using an MRI scanner. The procedure involves using a coffee-stirrer-sized probe to deliver the laser beam into the target area and destroying the soft tissue with the laser’s heat. Dr. Petronio was optimistic that the treatment would allow them to remove more of the tumor tissue without damaging the healthy surrounding brain tissue.
Gavin is the first and only patient to receive this cutting-edge procedure for the removal of teratomas.
To celebrate Gavin’s beating of Joe Bully, The Doctors send him and his family to Universal Studios Hollywood. Additionally, after hearing that Gavin is a huge wrestling fan, the WWE gifts the family with ringside seats to an upcoming match.