Courtesy of Brian Berty

Tim Berty and his new bride, Jessica, are shown on their wedding day. The Cecil couple was married in Tim’s hospital room after he had emergency surgery on their scheduled wedding day.

{child_flags:editors_pick}Cecil firefighter has brain surgery on wedding day

{child_byline}By Natalie Reid Miller

Community editor


{child_flags:editors_pick}Cecil firefighter has brain surgery on wedding day

{child_byline}By Natalie Reid Miller

Community editor


The Thursday before his wedding, Tim Berty was plagued by a headache. The volunteer Cecil firefighter popped a few Aleve and continued to prepare his department’s hall for the Saturday ceremony and reception.

Busy with wedding preparations, Tim didn’t have much to eat or drink that day. The headache persisted, so he took a few more over-the-counter pain meds and went to bed.

The next morning, his fiancée, Jessica Dhans, called his parents and anxiously asked them to come over. Tim was alert, she said, but not making sense.

“He was talking gibberish,” said his father, Brian Berty, also a member of Cecil Township Volunteer Fire Company No. 3.

Because of his training, Brian knew to check Tim’s pupils with a light. They didn’t react, which can indicate a neurological issue, so the family took Tim to Canonsburg Hospital’s emergency department. Tests revealed an infection of Tim’s sinus cavity that was so severe, it caused swelling of his brain.

When the family heard sinus infection, they thought he’d be prescribed antibiotics. They soon realized the gravity of Tim’s condition when they found out he was being taken by medical helicopter to UPMC-Presbyterian hospital.

“The bone between his nasal cavity and brain had eroded,” said Brian.

The next morning, Saturday, Sept. 22, the intended day of Tim and Jessica’s wedding, Tim had emergency surgery. Doctors removed a portion of the left side of Tim’s skull and extracted the infected bone and tissue.

Over the next two days, Tim began to recover in the hospital’s ICU. That Monday, he was able to start communicating with his family, including Jessica and his mom, Amy. He told them he was having stomach pain. He began to vomit.

A test revealed a perforated ulcer – a condition in which an untreated ulcer burns through the wall of the stomach, allowing digestive liquid and food to leak into the abdominal cavity. He was immediately taken for surgery.

On Wednesday, Tim was recovering when he began to have stomach pain again. Doctors found the ulcer had damaged more tissue than originally thought. As a result, they had to remove half of Tim’s stomach.

“He’s been in and out of the ICU,” said Brian. “He’s tired. He’s beaten up.”

While three surgeries took their toll, Tim felt well enough to marry Jessica Tuesday. He remained in his hospital bed, and she stood by his side.

The couple was surrounded by their parents and immediate family.

The couple also spent their birthdays in the hospital. Jessica turned 29 on Sept. 25, and Tim turned 25 Thursday.

Since the last surgery, Tim has been on the mend. Slowly, he’s starting to eat again. On Thursday, he was able to walk half the length of a hallway.

The plan is for Tim to have inpatient rehab at the adjoining UPMC-Montefiore hospital.

But, in addition to worrying about Tim’s health, the couple is concerned about their finances. A mechanic for Washington Ford, Tim will not be able to work for six to eight months, as the portion of his skull that was removed will not be reattached for at least five months because doctors want to be sure the infection is gone.

“Our lives were supposed to be changing for the better, then all of this happened,” said Brian. “They’re just starting out, just bought a house.”

Brian said the family is grateful to the many people who have supported them. A fundraiser spaghetti dinner is being planned that Tim would like to be well enough to attend to thank the community.

“He’s not shy,” said Brian, adding that his son is caring and generous. “A lot of people like Tim.”

A page has been established for the couple. Donations can also be sent to P.O. Box 179, Cecil, PA 15321.

Community Editor

Natalie Reid Miller is Community Editor and has worked at the Observer-Reporter since 2013. With fellow Observer-Reporter journalists, she won the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania’s Ray Sprigle Memorial Award for the “Under the Label” social series.

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