Soccer field

North Texas teenager returns to the football field less than a year after brain surgery – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Every week, 15-year-old Sarah Stearns finds herself on the soccer field with her Frisco Fusion teammates. Her love for sports developed when she was just a little girl, but last year her ability to play football temporarily stopped.

“It was really scary because they told my mum when I was in a coma that I wasn’t going back to football at all,” Stearns explained.

Last September, while attending a Young Life event at her church, the teenager started to feel sick.

“I was with my friends and then I had a really bad headache. It was normal because it was right after football practice so I just thought I was dehydrated and I didn’t. obviously wasn’t,” said Stearn who had collapsed.

She was taken to Children’s Health in Plano and then transported to the main location in Dallas.

She suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, which means a ruptured blood vessel. She was later diagnosed with AVM, arteriovenous malformation, which is an abnormal tangle of arteries and veins.

Less than one percent of the population has it and chances are Stearns was born with it.

“AVMs are probably one of the most complex problems or disorders or pathologies that can arise in the brain,” said Dr. Bradley Weprin, director of pediatric neurosurgery at UT Southwestern and Children’s Health.

He said that while they were monitoring Stearns’ brain, his condition declined.

“Over time, the pressure in his brain was increasing to levels that I don’t think we can control very well with medication,” Weprin explained. “So the decision was made to take him to the operating room.”

Along with neurosurgeon Dr. Rafael de Oliveria Sillero and a team of experts from the Center for Cerebrovascular Disorders in Children at Children’s Health, he performed a decompressive craniectomy.

“It’s basically taking a part of your skull, removing it, and then being able to put it back on,” Weprin explained.

“My brain was so swollen they had to remove that part of my skull and put it in my abdomen, I think that way my brain could slowly deflate and eventually they put it back,” explained Stearns. “It was crazy because people don’t have skulls in their stomachs and I had never heard of that, so it was pretty cool.”

“We made a pocket in the skin of his abdomen. So above his abdomen muscle, under the skin, created a pocket and placed his bone there so that he had a sterile storage place,” Weprin said.

He said that within days the pressure in Stearns’ brain stabilized and then Dr. Sillero performed a procedure which confirmed that Stearns had an AVM.

They then used radiosurgery, a type of non-invasive radiation therapy, to destroy the AVM.

“We think Sarah was the best candidate for the gamma knife, because the AVM was small,” Sillero explained.

He said this was the best approach because the AVM was deep in the brain and located in a difficult place to operate.

It was in January. After two brain surgeries and paralysis on the left side of her body, Stearns worked hard through rehab at Children’s Health Andrews Institute in Plano and raced to learn to walk and talk again.

She said she was told she couldn’t return to football until 2021, but that motivated her to speed things up.

“I wasn’t happy, just because I’ve been playing my whole life and made a lot of friends here and it was just scary because that’s all I knew. really motivated because I almost wanted to prove them wrong in a way, I wanted to come back to football,” Stearns said.

The 15-year-old did just that. In May she was practicing again and in July doctors said her AVM was half the original size. In August, she helped her teammates win a football match.

“She was lucky and she was doing great, but it’s not everyone, it’s kind of a miracle,” Sillero said.

“It’s worth it in the end, even if it’s hard, you’ll realize in the end that it was worth it and there were good times even when it didn’t feel like it” , said Stearns.

She admits she’s a little more cautious now than she was before 2019.

“It’s definitely always scary to play football just because I know what happened to me, so it’s like I can’t really ‘head’ the ball. If I did, it wouldn’t be terrible. , but that’s not a good idea, so it’s kind of scary to feel cautious all the time while I’m playing,” Stearns said.

The teenager said she learned valuable lessons during her recovery.

“Before it all happened, I was a lot calmer than I am now. I think I just realized there’s no point in being silent,” Stearns said. “I haven’t really spoken much, but now I do because in the hospital I had to make so many friends.”

Children’s Health said doctors expect her AVM to fully resolve within the next two years.

Dr Weprin said that in his experience and that of his colleague, they have treated 85 children similar to Stearns’ situation over the past 10 years.