Last April, eight-year-old Owen woke up with a bad headache so his mom kept him home from school. Later that day, Owen came out of the toy room and up to his mom trying to speak but was mumbling and she couldn’t understand him. His movement was fine, but he couldn’t communicate. He began to drool and continued mumbling and the alarm bell went off in mom, Jean’s head. 911 was called and Jean rode in the ambulance with her little boy to the ACH. By the time they got to the hospital, Owen was fine. Though tired, he was sitting up, talking normally as if nothing had happened. He couldn’t remember anything about the “episode.” He had a thorough exam but the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong. They were sent home with the understanding that if anything worries them to come back immediately. That night, Owen had more episodes before midnight and his parents rushed him back to the hospital. Shockingly, a CT scan showed a small mass in the frontal lobe of Owen’s brain and his parents felt sick to their stomachs worried that it was a tumour.
They were reassured slightly, however, when they met a Neurosurgical resident called Dr. Albert who thought it could be something less serious. After a long night in hospital sick with worry, Jean and Mike waited while their son had an MRI which would provide more insight into what this mass in their son’s brain could be. It took 45 minutes but seemed like hours. That’s when they met Neurosurgeon, Dr. Walter Hader and his Nurse Practitioner, Kelly Bullivant. They explained the mass was not cancer, but rather a bundle of blood vessels called a Cavernoma – and it had been there since birth. It would have to be removed because it had started bleeding and that’s what was causing Owen’s episodes, which were actually seizures. Dr. Hader said he could do the surgery that afternoon. It was a whirlwind of information to try and absorb. Jean remembers having a wobbly moment in the cafeteria – so worried about the surgery and Nurse Practioner, Kelly who happened to be there too, came up and reassured her with a hug. Kelly reassured her by saying they were in the right hospital with the right surgeon. That helped immensely.
That afternoon, Owen went into surgery. Dr. Hader removed a large piece of skull to access Owen’s brain and removed a piece the size of a blackberry. He then patched him up with dissolvable plates and screws to repair the skull. Jean and Mike were concerned that brain surgery would change their son somehow. But an hour post-surgery, Owen was playing on his mom’s phone, remembering all the games and even her password. Except for the scary scarring and swelling that temporarily followed brain surgery, he was himself. He went home three days later!
Dr. Hader jokes with Owen, calling his operation the “Drive Thru” Brain Surgery. He even gave him a Farside Cartoon of “Drive thru Surgery” from his bulletin board and autographed it for Owen. They have lived all over and feel like fate brought them to Calgary and ACH.
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