Impending brain surgery causes mounting bills for local couple Brain tumor Jackson Buckrail - Jackson Hole, news
Monika and Travis Ziehl grew closer as they worked through an enormous emotional toll and mounting medical bills. (Courtesy)

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – First responders on the scene December 8 quickly recognized the reason Travis Ziehl drove straight off the highway, went airborne, and crashed into a house on Sage Meadow Road.

Jackson Hole Fire/EMS personnel ascertained Ziehl had a seizure that caused him to lose control of his Dodge Ram 1500. After extracting him, Ziehl went into a second grand mal seizure. He was transported to St. John’s Medical Center where the decision was made to fly him to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) where he spent several days in ICU.

They were anxious days for Ziehl’s wife, Monika, who said her husband has never had a history of anything neurological. Ziehl is an avid runner in addition to being the owner of Jackson Hole Property Services.

Travis is an avid runner with no history of seizures until the day a grand mal caused him to crash his truck into a house south of Jackson.

The physical injuries were significant—cheek fractures, a compression fracture in his back, and a dislocated shoulder, along with many bumps and bruises from the accident. But what worried Monika more was the multiple smaller seizures Travis kept having on a daily basis for weeks even though he was on medication to control them.

And the news got worse. On December 30, Travis went in for another MRI. It revealed the cause of his temporal lobe seizures: a brain tumor. Pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma (PXA) is a very rare type of brain cancer most commonly seen developing in children and teenagers.

Life turned upside-down for the Ziehls. Christmas was a bit more somber. The New Year began with travel plans to the Mayor Clinic in Minnesota where Travis is scheduled to see a neurosurgeon specialist this Friday. Like so much of what has transpired in the past month, Monika isn’t really sure how the appointment was made.

“Friends, people in the community, have come out of the woodwork to visit us and pitch in where they could. People made calls,” Monika told Buckrail. “Someone knew someone who used to work for someone—that kind of thing. Next thing we know, Travis has an appointment with this top specialist in the country.”

Friends have stepped forward to support the couple. Money has been collected, calls were made, and a referral to the prestigious Mayo Clinic was secured. Monika says she doesn’t know how half of it is all happening at this point but is beyond grateful for the support.

The prognosis for this type of brain tumor (a benign cancer) is promising. The family will know more after Friday’s visit. Monika said the family’s Blue Cross Blue Shield should help get many big bills covered but uncertainty is always an issue with the current state of affairs in today’s healthcare world. The Mayo Clinic does accept BCBS.

But until that day, the family is enduring undue hardship. The emotional toll is daunting, compounded by unexpected expenses that are already piling up. Travis is out of work, and the couple has had to drastically alter their lifestyle at this point. Still, they remain upbeat.

“Travis is doing fine, considering,” Monika said. “He’s on a lot of meds to keep the seizures down. He’ll still have daily episodes where he gets a rush of adrenalin and increased heart rate. Overall he is hazy, and his memory comes and goes.”

Monika said she and Travis are touched by the community outpouring to date. “Overwhelmed, really,” she said. “The community support has been amazing. We already knew we lived in a community like this. Now we are seeing it come true firsthand, everyday.”

A GoFundMe account has been established for the Ziehls.