“Mom, what does a migraine feel like?”
That was the question 12-year-old Luc Wehby asked his mother, Jacquie Wehby, last May after a long day at school. Jacquie told Luc that their family didn’t have a history of migraines, but she did explain the basic symptoms and gave Luc an ibuprofen before bed.
The next day at school, Luc asked his teacher if he could go to the nurse because his head was killing him. The teacher called the nurse to inform her that Luc was on his way.
The nurse saw Luc approaching down the hall. She watched as he stopped to get a drink of water at the fountain, and he collapsed shortly after. Luckily, the nurse identified that Luc might be having a stroke. He was rushed to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital by Memorial Hermann Life Flight®.
Born with a Ticking Time Bomb in his Brain
Luc had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a rare tangle of blood vessels in the brain or on its surface that bypasses normal brain tissue and directly diverts blood from the arteries to the veins. The AVM had been present since birth, unbeknownst to Luc or his family. Although it’s possible that one might never rupture, over 50 percent of patients with an AVM have an intracranial hemorrhage. Luc’s AVM ruptured and began bleeding into the brain, which caused the stroke.
“Luc was on the brink of death when he first reached us,” said Dr. Manish Shah, UTHealth pediatric neurosurgeon affilated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (MNI). “We performed a craniotomy, where we took out part of the blood clot and coagulated part of the AVM. The quick response of the school officials allowed our team to help Luc soon after the hemorrhage.”
According to the American Stroke Association, the risk of death related to each bleed is 10 to 15 percent. The chance of permanent brain damage is 20 to 30 percent. Each time blood leaks into the brain, normal brain tissue is damaged. This results in loss of normal function, which may be temporary or permanent. Some possible symptoms include arm or leg weakness/paralysis, or difficulty with speech, vision or memory. The amount of brain damage depends on how much blood has leaked from the AVM. Because Luc’s treatment happened so quickly, the permanent damage that could have been caused was greatly reduced.
Team of Specialized Surgeons Put Luc on the Road to Recovery
In addition to Dr. Shah, Luc was treated by Dr. Roc Chen, UTHealth neurosurgeon affliated with MNI, and Dr. Angel Blanco, UTHealth radiation oncologist affliated with MNI. Dr. Chen and Dr. Blanco were involved in a Gamma Knife® radiosurgery that followed the craniotomy performed by Dr. Shah.
While Luc’s lifesaving operations were successful, the recovery is still a long process. The stroke caused paralysis on the left side of Luc’s body, which is his dominant side. However, therapy has helped to speed up Luc’s recovery.
“He’s already doing much better than anticipated,” said Jacquie Wehby. “He is walking without assistance and speaking again. He’s determined and won’t let his current state keep him down. He has recently been able to enjoy some of his favorite activities, like fishing and taking in an Astros game with the family.”
Recognizing the Signs of Stroke Saved Luc’s Life
“Luc’s recovery is going remarkably fast,” said Dr. Shah. “His positive outlook is a key part of his speedy recovery. We are lucky that those near him at the school were able to recognize the signs of stroke, which is what led us to the AVM. It reinforces the importance of knowing those signs.”
Some common symptoms of stroke include:
- Difficulty speaking
- Confusion or loss of memory
- Muscle weakness on one side of the body
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, immediately contact 911.
An AVM may not cause any signs or symptoms until the AVM ruptures, but some people with a brain AVM may experience other symptoms in advance of hemorrhage. Symptoms may begin at any age but usually emerge between ages 10 and 40. These include:
- Headache or pain in one area of the head
- Muscle weakness or numbness in one part of the body
For more information about pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, or to schedule an appointment, click here.
See how brain surgeons saved this young girl with an AVM by using SuperGlue.