Local Man Chad Wittwer Gets New Lease on Life After Health Scare
It was a normal evening for Chad Wittwer as he sat at the dinner table feeding carrots to his 2-year-old. When the doorbell rang, he walked to the front door to answer it and the next thing he knew, he was waking up in a hospital trauma center, disoriented, shirtless and wearing a neck brace.
“There were gunshot victims and car wreck victims beside me, but I had no clue why I was there,” Wittwer says. This was May of 2020 when COVID-19 was just ramping up, so that’s where his mind went. When he discovered that his phone was in his pocket, he texted his wife Emily and asked, “Do I have coronavirus so bad that I had to be taken to the hospital?”
She texted back, “What are you talking about? You had a grand mal seizure.”
Fifteen minutes later a neurosurgeon came in and told Wittwer, “Son, you probably have a brain tumor.” Brain scans soon revealed the doctor’s prediction was right.
“I was in shock,” Wittwer says. “I was only 34 at the time and healthy as a horse.” A father of two toddlers, Natalie and Charlie, this was the last thing he expected.
The following month he had surgery to remove the tumor. Recovery was slow and surreal.
“I was like Humpty Dumpty – doctors were trying to put me back together again,” says Wittwer, who took painkillers and steroids, and also engaged in physical therapy to rebuild the strength on the left side of his body. “It was so weird. I knew how to tie my shoes and open a door, yet I couldn’t do it. It’s insane to be a grown adult who can run a business and not be able to connect the dots to do simple things.”
Family, friends and neighbors were a godsend as they provided meals, sent care packages and mowed his lawn. It was a trying time in more ways than one, because his wife had been laid off due to COVID.
“Here we were in the prime of our lives and chopped down to nothing,” Wittwer says.
However, he wasn’t complaining. In fact, he was eternally grateful just to be alive. Recuperating was a big adjustment in and of itself since Wittwer had always been a high-energy person.
“I was used to working 10-hour days and then going for a four-mile run,” says Wittwer, who operates a business at Indianapolis International Airport called Fast Park. Though he liked his job, for the longest time he’d dreamt of becoming a realtor. When he was 17 he worked for his uncle, Dick Richwine, who is one of the most successful realtors in Indianapolis history. Though Wittwer put his real estate dream on the back burner, his brush with death made him reevaluate his future and pursue his lifelong ambitions.
“As Americans we get caught up in the rat race, but time goes by so fast,” he says. “Going through something like this makes you realize how much life is not guaranteed.”
After working his full-time job each day, Wittwer attended real estate school at night, putting in 14-hour days. Ultimately, he passed his state and national real estate exams, got licensed, and signed with a family-owned brokerage in Brownsburg called Weichert Realtors – New Dimensions.
Wittwer now attends Northwestern Medicine’s Malnati Brain Tumor Institute in downtown Chicago, and is following a maintenance plan with an advanced medical staff of clinical trial specialists and neuro-oncologists. Doctors never did determine the cause of his seizure, though they do credit it with saving his life.
“They said I was lucky that my body alerted myself to have the seizure because that’s what led to identifying the tumor,” Wittwer says. “Had it gone undetected, it might have developed into something fatal.”
Now he calls himself “the most monitored man in America,” as he undergoes a lot of blood work and scans to keep his health in check. He also raises money for a brain tumor charity and advocacy group called Oligo Nation.
“The support that Oligo Nation Founder Brock Greene has given me is indescribable,” Wittwer says. “I recommend that anyone in a situation like mine reach out to them or a similar group. They, along with my faith and family, helped give me hope for the future.”