Twin babies give father hope to fight through brain tumor diagnosis

Brain Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Feb 3, 2017

After struggling for years to have children, there are no greater words to hear than, “You’re pregnant.” Add to that the joy — or maybe shock — of the words “with twins,” and parents-to-be John and Stacy Ash felt doubly blessed.

Everything was going well with Stacy’s pregnancy at mid-term, but not with John. During a routine eye exam, the doctor noticed pressure on John’s optical nerves. While he had no symptoms, an MRI revealed a tennis ball-sized tumor near the optic nerve in his brain.

Within hours of the diagnosis, he was admitted to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano for neurosurgery. The procedure carried many risks, including the chance of blindness. The circumstances threatened to overwhelm the Ashes, until they met Jo-Anne Mastor, a retired nurse-turned volunteer.

“I’ve had two brain surgeries, so I could talk them through the procedure,” she said.

When John tearfully asked her, “What if I never get to see my babies’ faces?” she had an answer for that as well.  

“I was able to get Stacy booked for a 3-D ultrasound at the pregnancy center where I also volunteer so John could ‘see’ his babies before surgery,” Jo-Anne said.

Stacy and Jo-Anne with sonograms of the twins.

Those pictures would be a turning point for John.

“Once I saw those pictures, I knew I had to fight for my babies,” he said. 

Jo-Anne was at the couple’s side for the surgery, which was successful. Not only was the tumor benign, but John’s recovery was nothing short of a miracle, with no loss of sight or other functions. Seven weeks later, the babies — a boy and a girl — were delivered by emergency C-section. After a few weeks in the NICU, they went home thriving.

John and Jo-Anne.

The Ashes still stay in touch with Jo-Anne. She regularly receives pictures and texts and also attended the twins’ christening — a testament to how much Jo-Anne, or “Saint Jo,” as the Ashes call her, means to the happy family.

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