An annual eye exam saved Zane Hollar’s life.

On March 22, Hollar went to Warsaw Family Eyecare for his annual routine check-up.

“He didn’t have any concerns or issues at all,” said optometrist Dr. Scott Caughell. “He came in for his yearly checkup for his contacts. He didn’t have any concerns, he said he was seeing well, everything was fine. He didn’t have any (bad) health history or anything like that.”

Hollar, 27, had gone to see Caughell a year ago, too, without any problems.

Caughell said he almost didn’t see Hollar on March 22 because a meeting at work made Hollar about 20 minutes late to his eye appointment. “A lot of times we’ll reschedule people if they’re over 15 minutes late. He was 20 minutes late, but I squeezed him in,” Caughell recalled.

Warsaw Family Eyecare also has a lot of new advanced imaging equipment, which it recommends for many patients, but Hollar almost backed out of that. It was that equipment that caught Hollar’s medical problem.

Images of Hollar’s eyes were taken and they didn’t look bad on their own, but when Caughell compared this year’s images to last year’s, he noticed one of Hollar’s optic nerves looked slightly different.

“It was a little bit swollen. It appeared a little bit blurry and swollen, but not very much. It was pretty mild. A lot of times when people have things like that, it’s very obvious,” Caughell said.

He said if one sees swollen nerves, that usually means the spinal fluid pressure is too high, which can be caused by many things. “Sometimes people just have high spinal fluid pressure, and it just causes problems. A lot of times it can be from a mass or a brain tumor or anything like that. It also can be a sign of inflammation and things like that, of course, too. Different diseases you could have.”

After seeing the swelling, Caughell then dilated Hollar’s eyes to confirm it. He conducted a couple more tests on Hollar, including an Optical Coherence Tomography that captures 3D imaging slices using laser technology. That test showed swelling.

He didn’t want to scare Hollar, but Caughell told him he was worried about the swelling. He sent Hollar to the hospital for a blood draw and got him scheduled for an MRI at Parkview Hospital the next morning.

Hollar said at that point he was nervous, but was trying to be optimistic.

“I didn’t let myself go online and look at any of the possibilities just because I figured I’d be thinking even more worst-case scenarios there,” Hollar said. “But, once I heard the MRI was scheduled for the next morning, I had a pretty good idea it was probably something possibly serious.”

The radiologist at Parkview called Caughell before they even released Hollar and told him that Hollar had a mass that was causing his brain to swell and that he needed to see a neurosurgeon that day, which was a Friday.

Caughell said he didn’t know exactly how long Hollar had the growth, but he estimated it could have been up to six months, a year or even longer. “It just had gotten to the size where it blocked one of the drainage channels in the brain. That was what was causing the swelling,” he said.

That Friday afternoon, Hollar was admitted to Parkview Regional in Fort Wayne. He eventually spoke with the neurosurgeon who gave Hollar a description of what they saw and what they were expecting.

“Friday felt like the most hopeless day because we really didn’t know too much and everything was new and all the news felt like it was bad, and he was bringing up the possibility that if they couldn’t get it out” they might put stents in to relief the pressure, Hollar said. It was then that he began to think about the worst-case scenario.

On Saturday, Hollar moved from the emergency room to a patient room upstairs and got to speak with Dr. James Dozier, the doctor who ended up performing the surgery.

“He kind of gave me a little bit more hope because he mentioned that there was a way to get in there through a minimally invasive method and that he’d get in there and attempt to get as much out as he could through that. At that point, I was in pretty good spirits,” Hollar said.

The hospital’s immediate concern was the pressure in Hollar’s head. They told him the surgery might take place Monday morning. Early Monday morning, Hollar learned the surgery was being planned for Wednesday morning.

“I just remember praying for him every day,” said Caughell.

After the surgery, and after coming off all the drugs and anesthesia, Hollar said he asked multiple times how the surgery went. They told him they not only got it all out, but it was benign.

“I was pretty out of it, but I remember the feeling I had. It was pretty cool and it was uphill from there,” Hollar said.

After a week, he was feeling pretty antsy in the hospital. Other than the soreness from the surgery, he felt fine and he didn’t have any complications. He checked out Saturday morning. He ended up being off work for a little more than a month. The doctors kept him on seizure medication after the surgery, but Hollar didn’t have any adverse effects.

His scar follows his hairline but is barely noticeable.

Almost two weeks after his surgery, Hollar went to see Caughell while running errands with his girlfriend. “I came in here and wanted to say thank you to Scott and the whole staff,” Hollar said.

Caughell recalled Hollar saying, “‘Hey, man, thanks for saving my life.’ I was like, ‘You’re welcome.’ I was glad I could help you. Then you were like, ‘I’m going to tell everyone to get their eyes checked.’”

Hollar said he’s serious about telling people to have their eyes checked out. “I was having migraines before that, earlier in the year, and I brought that up during the appointment. But it was something I thought I had under control, too, because I thought it was something like posture.”

He had his migraines checked out at a clinic, but was told it was just migraines and was given some pain medication, which was the last thing he wanted. “Then I come in for my yearly eye exam and that’s what it took,” Hollar said.

If Hollar hadn’t got his eyes examined and then had the surgery, his surgeon told him he could have died. The most immediate concern was the pressure on his brain, which led to the migraines and occasional vomiting.

Caughell said, “I’ve had several cases where people just came in for routine stuff, and it’s been like brain tumors. That’s my big goal … preventive care is really important. Yearly eye exams for everybody. Not only that, but seeing your doctor once a year and go to the dentist because you just never know.”