Around 10 p.m. on April 30, Brian Satterlee, of Cambridge, drove into a pond hear his home due to a seizure while driving home from church band practice. He was airlifted by helicopter from Cambridge to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and three broken vertebrae in his lower back from the accident.
Satterlee did not have a history of seizures, which added to the confusion. An MRI taken the following morning revealed the cause — a grade 2 oligodendroglioma brain tumor in his right frontal lobe.
“It was one of those things where you know that he had never had a seizure before,” said Linda, Brian Satterlee’s wife. “You always hear about people who have seizures and they never have another one. This time something was there. It was really surprising and I’d say scary. It was one of those things where it took a while to think into.”
Brian went through an array of emotions. Part of him was happy that they found out what caused the seizure, but the other part of him was devastated.
“I have a brain tumor — totally out of the blue, and nobody plans for that. The doctor said, ‘We don’t know why cells freak out and start duplicating. It just happens,’” Brian said.
The Satterlee family has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years. Brian is a self-employed music therapist and music teacher and has served as worship director at several local churches over the years.
“He has become much more than a teacher to his music students and their families, becoming a role model, mentor and friend,” said Sheila Gagnon, a family friend. “So many people’s lives have been touched through Brian’s ministry, his musical teaching and his friendship.”
Gagnon is organizing an event, the Banding Together for Brain Satterlee Benefit, to be held from 4-8 p.m. Sunday, July 19, at the Braham Area Event Center. The benefit will feature a silent auction and a home-style smoked barbecue pork dinner. Funds raised will go to the family’s medical bills, daily expenses and replacing their vehicle, which was totaled in the accident.
“Mounting medical bills and lost income are making it difficult for the family to meet their financial responsibilities,” Gagnon said. “He can now focus on recovery and getting back to 100 percent, but he is unable to work for the foreseeable future.”
On June 18, Brain underwent a surgery that successfully removed the primary tumor. Pathology has determined that he will not need chemotherapy or radiation at this time. In three months Brain will take another MRI to ensure all is well.
“When he came up from surgery, he was completely paralyzed on his left side — wasn’t able to eat or raise his eyebrows. He is able to walk and speak now. Things look much better,” Linda said.
There is still no movement in Brain’s left arm, and he continues to suffer from a fractured back. Most likely, he will not return to his normal self for at least a year. His condition prevents him from driving or working.
On June 25, Brian was transferred from the neuro-ICU in United Hospital to the rehab center. Linda said Brain is doing well in therapy, which he attends three hours per day.
“I am very proud of Brian. I have been sitting through every one of his therapy sessions. He trusts the therapists. He is letting the therapists guide him instead of arguing, and because of that, his body is healing and adjusting quicker than if he wouldn’t. I think that is making a difference,” Linda said.
Music is his tool to overcome difficulties that came with the life changes. While learning to walk again with a walker, Brian hummed AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” making steps to the beat. He explained that he uses songs in this way to help with pacing so he is not just throwing his leg out randomly.
The Satterlees appreciate all the support they have received from family and friends. For more information about the benefit contact Sheila Gagnon at [email protected] or call 763-439-2468.