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The 4-1-1: Lafayette Gerst "WINS" Medical Battle And Graduates (568 hits)

An elbow to the face during a basketball game spiraled Lafayette Gerst into dizziness and vision loss. The blow followed a series of throbbing headaches the Hampton University graduate student had been
experiencing daily for weeks. It often felt like his brain was swelling and pressing against his skull, he said.

The added symptoms from the blow to his face prompted Gerst, 26, to visit the emergency room the next morning. The doctor delivered news that crushed his plans to graduate in the spring with a master's degree
in counseling, with an emphasis on student affairs. Gerst had a brain tumor.

The tumor was at the top of his brain stem and the size of a quarter in diameter. It was benign. There was no way to know how long it had been there or how rapidly it was growing. If the tumor got larger, it could shut down the flow of fluid to his brain and kill him, the doctor said. There was no knowing how long he'd live if it wasn't removed. He could fall asleep that night and not wake up, the doctor told him.

Surgery would knock him out of school from three weeks to three months. Gerst only had three credit hours left to complete his degree requirements. He sat in class the week before surgery, only half-listening to lectures.

A myriad of thoughts rushed through his mind. "Will I be able to finish school? There's so much work I'll have to do when I get back. I can't believe I have a tumor in my head." Spencer Baker, his HU advisor and coordinator of the graduate program in counseling, said Gerst had completed enough internship hours to cover the three credit
hours he needed to earn his degree. He told Gerst to focus on surgery and recovery.

It's the simple act of walking across the stage on his own that has him most excited about graduating Sunday. "That's my main thing. To walk with balance. I can do it," he said. "It's just a blessing. I'm very excited, I'm very happy."

Gert's post-graduation plan is to work as a college counselor, and his dream is to open his own expressive-art therapy clinic. He earned a bachelor's degree in art from HU in 2007.

Posted By: Marsha Jones
Tuesday, May 10th 2011 at 1:41PM
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