Lena's Brain Surgery

Lena's Story

 Lena began showing signs of a bad flu when she woke up on Saturday, July 7th.  The symptoms were immediate.  Bryan and I thought it was strange, but never suspected what was happening in her brain. She slept through the day, and we would have to wake her up to give her water, which she would immediately throw up. Around 7 p.m., we decided she’d become too dehydrated to get over this flu quickly, so we took her to the ER at Saint Vincent’s for IV fluid. 

 After hearing of her symptoms, the flu was ruled out, and other tests were run.  First a spinal tap, then an MRI.  The MRI showed a large dark spot on the left side of her brain. Unsure of what it was, she was taken by ambulance to OHSU, Doernbechers Children’s Hospital, at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. At Doernbecher’s they ran more tests to rightly determine the dark spot, which they considered to be either a tumor or blood clot, but none of the tests clearly identified the mass.

 Monday, July 9th, the pressure on Lena’s brain had increased to the point that the doctors felt she had to have brain surgery.  During surgery, the neurosurgeon discovered the cause: an AVM (Arterial Veinal Malformation). This is extremely rare, but occurs when an artery attaches to a vein and is pumping blood directly from the heart into a vein. Not only was red and blue blood mixing, but the vein is built to hold blood traveling back to the heart at a much lower pressure, which ultimately caused the rupture.  The surgeon removed the blood clot safely, and could tell that there was possibly multiple AVMs, located somewhere along the vein, but couldn’t find it. A second surgery would be necessary.

 Wednesday, July 11th, after the inflammation from surgery subsided, Lena went through more tests: angiogram and MRIs, to find the other AVM’s.  They had disappeared!  Praise the Lord! There was no sign of bleeding, or malformations, which meant she did not have to go through another brain surgery and could begin the recovery process. On Thursday, she was moved out of ICU, and Monday, July 16th, she was released to come home.

 The damage took place on the left side of Lena’s brain, which controls speech.  She lost about 90% of her words, and her ability to read.  The first couple days, after surgery, she had difficulty following instruction. She was weak, and needed assistance walking.  Within a few days of returning home, she was running around, gaining more words by the hour and began reading a few words.

 Today, she has at least 50% of her words back, can follow most instructions, is moving like a normal 10 year old, and can read beginner level books.  Throughout this whole process her attitude has been positive and thankful.  We are amazing at her resilience and God’s miracles!

 During the next couple years, the neurosurgeon team will be doing a series of test to ensure that there is no bleeding in her brain.  Lena will be taking a year off school to work on getting her speech, reading and understanding back to normal.  She was given a little dog, Taco, to be her companion and brighten her mood when communicating with people gets too frustrating.  It’s like God gave little Taco an assignment to take care of Lena.  Out of the 7 people in our home, he follows her around everywhere and sleeps on her bed.  

 God was with us from the beginning.  He kept us strong and comforted us during the scariest parts of this journey.  Although He doesn’t always choose to heal, he did for Lena, and we are so humbled. We are so extremely thankful for all the miracles he did this past month for our family.  We are blown away at the support our community gave us through prayer, meals, encouraging words, and comforting hugs.  

 Thank you all for your continued support and many blessings upon you all!
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Organizer and beneficiary

Mona Matthews 
Portland, OR
Brooke Erickson 

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