Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography
On Nov. 4, 2020, Colorado State University construction management major Zach Hill had gone to school and full-time work when he felt like he needed a nap to calm his migraine headache.
Just 24 hours later, Hill was being wheeled into an Anschutz Medical Campus operating table for emergency brain surgery to remove part of a tennis ball-sized, non-cancerous tumor. The mass was bleeding, pressing on his optic nerve and was attached to his Carotid arteries.
In between, the quick thinking of girlfriend Landyn Croy, a hospital ride, CT scan and a helicopter ride to Denver saved his life. Within seconds, Croy called 911 — against Hill’s wishes. “I kept saying no, no, I’m fine. I feel fine. There’s no need to call them,” Hill said. “Thankfully, she did.”
Hill’s initial 5-hour surgery and another 8-plus hour one in March 2021 both went well, but the Fort Collins native was put on bedrest for a couple of weeks each time, putting him behind in schoolwork.
An early 2022 scan may mean a third brain surgery in March if medicine fails to shrink the tumor. A much earlier doctor visit made Hill realize how things could have gone differently.
“After my first surgery, I met with the surgeon and the endocrinologist,” he said. “My endocrinologist said that had Landyn not called 911, I would not be here today. I would not have made it through the night.”
Hill said his instructors gave him allowances to finish his schoolwork.
“All the professors here are great people and want to see us succeed,” he said. “I must thank my professors for all their help and patience to work with me to catch up in class.”
In their own words
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
The most rewarding experience I have had at CSU is the people I have met along the way. My professors have been instrumental in my accomplishment to graduating. I also have made some great friendships through my time at CSU.
Q. What obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome to reach graduation?
The largest obstacle I have had to overcome to reach graduation was trying to catch up in my classes after having emergency brain surgery. In November 2020 one day after class and work I fell asleep on my couch at 5 in the afternoon. My fiancé woke me up at 7 wanting me to go to bed. When she woke me, she discovered I was having stroke-like symptoms and called 911. I was rushed to the hospital and had a CT scan when I got to the hospital. They discovered I had a brain tumor that was bleeding internally. My condition worsened through the evening until I was put on a helicopter and flown to Denver to have emergency surgery. The surgery went well, and I was released from the hospital four days after surgery. I went home and was on bed rest for two weeks to recover. I needed another surgery six months after my first surgery. While the second surgery was not an emergency, I still had to miss two weeks of class for the recovery process. I must thank my professors for all their help and patience to work with me to catch up in class.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
I would tell incoming students to keep up with your class work because you never know what can happen. I had been keeping up with my class work and when I had to miss two weeks in one semester. It was a lot easier to catch up than had I been behind in class. Also, professors are much more willing to help you if you are putting in the effort. The professors at CSU want you to be successful and if you put in the work, they will help you when you need it.