Recovery from brain tumor leads to hidden talent - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Recovery from brain tumor leads to hidden talent

James Kittel survived a brain tumor five years ago James Kittel survived a brain tumor five years ago
James Kittel plays saxophone at Wausau West High School James Kittel plays saxophone at Wausau West High School
James dealt with a brain tumor and several complications that followed James dealt with a brain tumor and several complications that followed

by Bryon Graff

RIB MOUNTAIN (WAOW) - We bring you an amazing story that felt anything but amazing a few years ago.  A young man named James Kittel was a focused athlete.

Then, a life-changing brain tumor helps him discover a brand new talent.

Sports is a huge part of the Kittel household. James loved to play basketball and football... and wrestle. He led a healthy lifestyle and competed with energy. He was determined to make state wrestling as a 5th grader in 2004.

James Kittel: "I had the perfect bracket really."

That is.. until his world was turned upside down.

James Kittel: "I was going home everyday with headaches, pain, just bad pain.

Tod Kittel/James' Dad: "When we got to the family doctor. He sat down and his eyes were welling up with water and we just knew something wasn't right and he gave us the news."

James had a brain tumor.

James Kittel: "There were so many things that went through my mind. What's going to happen? Am I going to make it after?"

Surgery immediately followed. James faced a serious situation.

Tod Kittel: And you can't do anything to help them. You have to wait until the doctor does his job."

Dr. Mark Weissman/James' Neurologist: "Although the suspicion was that it was a benign tumor that was not a certainty before surgical exploration."

He had surgery two days after the diagnosis. The tumor was benign. and successfully removed.

James Kittel: "Came home after that and everything was going good."

But he wasn't in the clear just yet. Soon after, complications set in.

James: "My patch had dissolved where the hole was."

He ran a fever and his head was beginning to swell with a brain fluid leak.

James Kittel: "My head was just huge."

Dr. Weissman: "He was developing increased pressure in the brain which was a significant concern for me."

He ended up back in the hospital and that's where he spent his 11th birthday.

James Kittel: "I tried to stay confident."

4 days later he underwent a painful procedure to drain the fluid.. and fight an infection. His hands bruised and sore from all the IV's.

I remember being worried about getting all the funny looks because of the bandages and the turban I had to wear."

Jane Kittel/James' Mother: "He was very strong. He was always very strong. He's say, 'Mom you're not crying over there are you? No I'm fine."

Katie Kittel/James' Sister: "He was as strong as he could. I never saw him cry once."

Annual exams show he's clear of the tumor and with each turn of the calendar turns the Kittels feel more confident James is completely healthy.

Tod Kittel: "So we always had to schedule a year out. So when we left the hospital we knew a year from now this appointment was to be made. For a week, two weeks prior we were on eggshells. Then after the fourth year Dr. Weissman says hey this is cool you don't have to worry about this anymore."

James' parents kept a journal through this whole experience. And turned it into a book called "Tumor, the day our world stopped turning." But it's to be continued.

And that's where James discovers a whole new talent.

As for all that time he spent with sports, where would he focus that time.. that energy.. that focus? That comes with the sound of music.

James Kittel: "Once all the emotions were down I realized I couldn't play sports anymore. That's my whole life pretty much. It's over with. So I had to find somewhere else to go with my talent."

Kittel: "It's just the feel of it. Especially jazz. Just a passion. It's something I feel I could do forever."

Nicholas Castonguay/Wausau West Band Director: "He's just very musically talented. One of the best musicians we have at West High School is James Kittel."

James had very little experience with music.  After all sports took up most of his time.

But he steers that way partly because of a joke he made with the doctor.

This is the first of a two part series.  It airs Tuesday during Newsline 9 at Six.  Wednesday at six, find out how James discovers his musical side.

Online Reporter: Bryon Graff

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