THE COMPASS

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MY NEUROSURGICAL JOURNEY BY ASHLEY MULLINS

My medical story began when I was 14 months old. I was born with a cavernous malformation. One day my mom had noticed I was dragging my right leg and couldn’t use my right arm properly. I was having a hard time keeping food down. My mom decided it was best to take me in to see a doctor. So I went and had an MRI. We got the results – I had a brain hemorrhage. I had a 12-hour surgery, with Dr. Aronyk as my surgeon. My chance of surviving was less than 25 per cent.

I made a full recovery but had MRI scans on a regular basis. I grew up healthy, active and happy playing sports and doing hip hop dancing. When I was 12 years old, I was doing my first photo shoot ever as I was interested in modelling. I remember I was having a hard time holding myself up, getting very clumsy with my whole right side. I also had a fall at school one day and knew something just wasn’t right. So my mom took me in to see the doctor and to get an MRI. I had hemorrhaged again. It was a 12-hour surgery. I remember all my family and friends were so worried and crying as I was going in to the OR. I was scared but I knew in my heart that it would be OK in the end.

The doctors had told my family that they were expecting me to be in a coma for up to four months. I actually woke up on the operating table as they were bandaging my head up. Everyone in the OR was clapping and cheering and I knew exactly where I was!

After my surgery I was in the University hospital for about three weeks before I got transferred to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. I had to relearn how to walk and talk. I was in occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy. I had to re-train my whole right side of my body and my mouth to work again. The simplest things would be so hard for me, like picking up a pencil or just sliding a cloth across the table. There were days when I just wanted to give up completely. But I got through each day knowing my friends and family were always there for me. My rehabilitation continued for about eight months and I was almost ready to go back to school full-time until we realized I wasn’t feeling myself yet again. I went in for another MRI and the results had shown another hemorrhage. This time I was sent to Calgary because they had an MRI machine in the operating room.

My friends, family and even Dr. Aronyk and Wendy Beaudoin from Edmonton came to be in the OR. That made me feel so much more at ease with the 14-hour surgery I was about to have. They told me and my family that because the surgery had to be so aggressive to cure me that the chances of not walking again were very high. At that moment my heart just sank. All the memories I had of me running and playing sports just flashed in my head. I then realized that my life would never be the same. What I once knew could be gone forever.

With having more challenges than I ever thought possible each day was a struggle beyond my wildest imagination. My doctors, my family and my friends were by my side every moment. Together, we got through each day. I fought as hard as I could. With strength, hope, courage, love and faith I’ve made it through. To this day I still work on my walking and I love to do volunteer work and fundraising for sick children. I work for the Stollery Children’s Hospital for my doctor and nurse and look forward to my future and helping sick children in any way I can.

I am so blessed to have the life I do. Is my life a struggle? Yes. But that doesn’t stop me from doing the things I love! I can do basically everything, just in a different way.

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