Miracles Do Happen
by Mark and Kim Carnes from Overland Park, Kansas
Bethany was a smart, happy and outgoing child of 5 years old. One Thursday she went to lunch and tumbled out of a car. She went to the pediatrician two times and was told she had a concussion. On the Saturday before Easter, she went back to the pediatrician and was told she might have a brain tumor. Of course we couldn't believe this could be true and decided to have a CT scan the following Monday.
After the doctor visit on Saturday, she went to an Easter egg hunt. Her ataxia was so bad that she had to hold someone's hand when she bent down to pick up the eggs or she would fall. As luck would have it she won the prize and found the golden egg and received a large Easter basket complete with bunny ears and bunny slippers.
Her life forever changed the following Monday when the CT scan revealed a mass in her brain. She was rushed to the local children's hospital and we were told that she had a large brain tumor (which we found out later was a grade IV astrocytoma) in her cerebellum. The odds were that it was cancer and she would have a very slim chance of survival. We were in a state of shock and Bethany had no idea what was going on but she knew she had her bunny slippers and that made everything better. She had an 11-hour surgery to remove the tumor and a number of large cysts. The good news was that she didn't have cancer! The bad news was that she came out of surgery unable to walk, and with no bowel control, no speech function, and no control of her hands head and eyes.
Each day was filled with long hours of caring for her, trying to make her comfortable and not allowing us to think about the future. Approximately two weeks after surgery she was taken back to the hospital to have a shunt inserted into her 4th ventricle. The surgery took longer than expected and they weren't sure if the shunt would help her hydrocephalus. After the shunt, she showed a marked improvement in her overall function. The shunt had relieved the pressure building up in her brain.
Bethany went through weeks of extensive therapy. We often wondered if she could understand what was being said to her, as she was still unable to speak. We were searching for answers on what brain damage had occurred and asking questions about what was her life going to be like. The doctors didn't have the answers to our questions. After about 6 weeks she slowly began to regain her speech. She also began learning to walk and use her arms again. Eventually, she regained control of her body and had to relearn many things. She was able to attend kindergarten the following fall.
Bethany's progress continued to improve over time. She is still getting MRI's to ensure that the tumor doesn't come back and to check that the shunt is working.
The Miracle truly happened! Bethany is now almost 16 years old and in 10th grade. She has come so far that the average person would not know she has had surgery and has problems with balance and vision. Not many people would put in as much effort or work as hard as she does trying to stay on top of her schoolwork. She continues to struggle with her ataxia and has had to give up most team sports. She has been able to continue swimming and swims competitively all year round. She recently won a number of trophies and awards during the summer swim team league and lettered as a freshman on the High School Swim Team. She has discovered tri-focal contact lens, which have been extremely helpful (she has some optic nerve damage from the surgery) in overcoming some of her vision problems.
Last Thanksgiving she was hospitalized due to drop seizures and spells where she would pass out. She stopped breathing a number of times during her hospital visit. At this time it was discovered that her brain is sending false messages (due to the tumor resection) to her organs, thus causing them to shut down or work very slowly. She has some wonderful medicine that has made a world of difference. She has a part time job and has her driving permit! Bethany has learned to compensate for things that most people take for granted. She is a miracle and has so much to offer others. She doesn't take anything for granted!
When having a bad day, we often look at her and her willingness to live and things always look so much better!