Caroline's courage after stroke


Kristi Simmons: I remember Caroline getting up and saying, 'Mom, I know it's going to be a great day.'

Vivien Williams: But on the bus ride to school, 4th grader, Caroline Simmons' great day turned into a devastating one.

Caroline Simmons: I started to have a massive headache. It was like a migraine, but worse.

Vivien Williams: Caroline was having a stroke. Her brain was hemorrhaging. An ambulance rushed her to Mayo Clinic.

Caroline Simmons: I lost my ability to move along the right side of my body, and I couldn't talk because my vocal cords were paralyzed.

Sam Simmons: It was really frightening. You never expect anything like that's going to happen to your 10-year-old daughter.

Vivien Williams: A multidisciplinary team of specialized experts at Mayo Clinic launched into action. They performed an angiogram that revealed an abnormal tangle of vessels called an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, in her brain.

Nicholas Wetjen, M.D. — Mayo Clinic pediatric neurosurgeon: These can rupture, break and cause a hemorrhage.

Vivien Williams: Mayo Clinic pediatric neurosurgeon Nicholas Wetjen says the bleeding can then clot, further increasing pressure in the brain.

Nicholas Wetjen, M.D.: The majority is left with some type of deficit, although in children as opposed to adults, they tend to recover quite a bit faster.

Vivien Williams: Caroline's surgery involved removing the clot along with the tangle of vessels that doctors suspect was there since birth.

Sam Simmons: Seeing her get rolled out of the room after surgery was kind of a shocker too.

Kristi Simmons: That was hard. That was really hard.

Vivien Williams: But Caroline, who is now 24 years old and a college graduate, made it through a critical event from which one-fourth don't recover.

Caroline Simmons: I tried so hard to believe I wasn't going to die.

Vivien Williams: Still, she remembers the ordeal.

Caroline Simmons: I'm glad I survived that day. If I hadn't held on, that awful stroke would have killed me. And I would have never met such wonderful friends.

Vivien Williams: Now, Caroline's appreciation of life is obvious in all she does, even at work in the kitchen.

Caroline Simmons: Chocolate chip cookies.

Vivien Williams: And even though the stroke left a permanent mark.

Caroline Simmons: Everything moves a bit slower on my right side than my left side.

Vivien Williams: Caroline's courage is an inspiration to many. An example of strength, optimism and love.

Dec. 06, 2014