Mt. Pleasant girl overcomes effects of brain surgery
Jaidlynne South, 14, of Mt. Pleasant has been named to the Mt. Pleasant Area Junior-Senior High School honor roll for the first and second nine-week grading periods of the 2013-14 school year.
She also regularly takes part in her favorite pastimes, such as swimming, camping.
Jaidlynne has done all of that less than one year after undergoing major neurosurgery on her brain.
“I am lucky to have the support of my parents and sister, Natasha Peck, for being by my side every step of the way,” Jaidlynne said.
Jaidlynne's mother, Tricia South, said her daughter was always a healthy child, and rarely visited the doctor other than for annual checkups and immunizations prior to June 1, 2013, when she suffered her first seizure.
There were no warning signs or indications that she suffered from any health-related issues, South said.
After being examined at Excela Health Frick Hospital near the borough, Jaidlynne soon after was transported to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, South said.
Physicians there determined that Jaidlynne was suffering from an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM.
AVM is a vascular lesion in which arteries and veins are tangled and not connected by capillaries, according to webmd.com.
AVM can occur in many different parts of the body, but those located in the brain, brain stem and spinal cord can affect the entire body, the site states.
Physician Stephanie Greene, director of vascular neurosurgery at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, informed the South family that surgery was Jaidlynne's best option, she said.
Greene said AVM is always treated surgically when possible, as it brings a lifetime risk of hemorrhage in those diagnosed with it.
That risk is unacceptably high in diagnosed children, or upwards of 85 percent for someone Jaidlynne's age.
“I'm very impressed with the doctors at Children's Hospital. When they were speaking about the surgery, the spoke directly to Jaidlynne and didn't ‘sugarcoat' it,” South said.
South added that Jaidlynne was old enough to understand everything, and they told her about the surgery on her brain and the possible outcome if she didn't have the surgery.
Jaidlynne and her family were comforted when Greene put them in touch with a patient that previously had the surgery when he was 17, South said.
The family spoke to the former patient over the phone, and he explained what to expect as far as the surgery and recovery he experienced, South said.
The eight-hour surgery was performed June 7, Greene said.
The procedure involved making an upside-down, U-shaped incision and removing part of Jaidlynne's skull, Greene said.
An operating microscope was used to help surgeons see and remove the malformation, and then the piece of skull that was previously removed was replaced by tiny titanium plates and screws.
Jaidlynne was then taken for an angiogram, a dye study of blood vessels of the brain immediately after surgery to verify the entire malformation had been removed, Greene said.
She spent the next 10 days at Children's Hospital, half of which was spent in the intensive care unit, Greene said.
Following surgery, Jaidlynne's entire right side of her body was paralyzed, and she was unable to speak, Greene said, adding that these effects are typical with that type of procedure.
“I was grateful for the trust they put in me, having met just two weeks before the surgery,” Greene said.
Tricia South said she and her husband, John, were by Jaidlynne's side in the hospital, talking to her and moving her extremities on her right side.
These were things that the former patient told them worked for him, South said.
The South family was informed that Jaidlynne's recovery, which consisted of speech, occupational and physical therapy, would last three months at The Children's Institute.
However, Jaidlynne regained her speech and motor function, and she went home after just two weeks and two days, South said.
Her strength was not at 100 percent when she was discharged, so she continued outpatient therapy two or three times per week, South said.
After three months of determination, she regained her strength just before school started, South said.
Jaidlynne has excelled in school, despite what some of the doctors thought, South said.
Greene said the typical recovery time is usually six months after surgery, however, it is not unheard of for recovery to be this rapid.
“I'm very proud to say my daughter has made the honor roll the first and second nine weeks,” Tricia South said.
To maintain her strength, Jaidlynne and her family joined a local gym, where they continue to exercise a few times a week, South said.
Jaidlynne can participate in all activities she previously enjoyed except organized sports due to the risk of hitting her head, South said.
She will have to regularly repeat angiograms through June, as well as every five years as a precaution, South said.
Kelly Vernon is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or [email protected]