The doctor’s devastating news had left Brianna’s parents shocked and fearful as they paced the hospital waiting room waiting to see their daughter. After all, their 12-year-old child’s brain scans had been scrutinized, and there was no doubt about the diagnosis. But little did they know that through the doctor’s discovery, their daughter’s life had been miraculously saved.
Just a few hours previously, Brianna’s mom had wished her luck as she ran onto the court to play basketball. But what happened next changed her future forever, leaving her mom with the firm belief that a guardian angel was watching over Brianna that day.
Still, Brianna Laux of Lowell, Michigan, is more than just a passionate basketball player with a keen eye on court. In archery, for example, she was one of the nation’s brightest talents. She had even dreamed of one day representing her country at the Olympic Games.
Spurred on by her extraordinary ability to hit the bullseye, she competed to become a champion at various tournaments; the focused 12-year-old was showing the determination it took to become an Olympian. Parents Jennifer and Chad Laux were naturally proud, then, when she was picked to represent the local junior Olympics team. It seemed that her path was already stretching out in front of her.
However, during a basketball match on February 16, 2017, her life would be turned upside down. And bizarrely, her family would be left forever grateful for the serious injury that she sustained during the game.
Brianna was a strong player, and as she went into the last quarter she was cruising through the basketball game. Just moments before the end, however, she reached out for the ball and was struck in the side of the head by an opponent’s elbow. The collision left her unsteady and gasping for breath.
That blow to her temple would change her life. Panting and dizzy, Brianna was clearly in distress, and her teammates quickly realized that something was seriously wrong. Despite her determination to finish the match, then, her coach took her out of the game.
As the final whistle blew, she still couldn’t breathe normally, and then her condition rapidly deteriorated. Indeed, it soon became clear that this was more than a minor bump when Brianna began vomiting and fell to the floor.
Next, Brianna was taken outside. But the fresh air did nothing for her, and an ambulance was soon called. Then, at the hospital, doctors ordered a CT scan as soon as they heard what had happened.
So just a short while ago, Brianna had been a young, fit and promising sports star. But now as she lay in bed, doctors revealed that they had found a bleed on her brain. Shock turned to disbelief and fear when doctors further revealed that excess fluid was building up and putting dangerous pressure on her brain. It seemed that extensive brain surgery would need to take place.
First, though, medics inserted a drain to prevent the fluid from causing permanent damage. But while it was the concussion which had put her in hospital, doctors soon realized that there was something else contributing to the dangerous bleed. An angiogram sourced the bleed to a clump of blood vessels situated deep inside the left side of her brain. On discovering this, medics knew that they needed to act fast to save the young girl’s life.
The issue was an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) with an aneurism inside that had triggered Brianna’s discomfort. This form of aneurism is rare, affecting only one percent of the population. “That blood vessel isn’t as strong as the rest of the blood vessels,” said pediatric neurosurgeon at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Artur Szymczak. “It can bleed a little or a lot – it can bleed catastrophically.”
As doctors treated Brianna, her parents processed the worrying new information. Suddenly, their daughter was not the strong and active youngster she had always been; now she was battling for her life against this previously hidden condition.
As her swelling reduced, then, preparations were made for Brianna to go into surgery and have the aneurism removed. But the next operation was high risk and could in fact affect her walking, talking and even learning capabilities. Still, everyone knew the importance of the operation, and surgeons actually operated from beneath the child in a bid to minimize any complications.
Her parents waited anxiously for her to wake up following the surgery. Would their daughter recognize them and be able to talk to them again? Fortunately, to everyone’s delight, the operation turned out to be a complete success.
As her eyes adjusted to the light, Brianna looked at the tense faces of her mom and dad and immediately said, “Hi mom and dad, my head hurts.” Emotion seized the family, and father Chad scooped Brianna in his arms, holding her tight, too relieved to speak.
As a result of the procedure, Brianna was left with a scar running down the left side of her head. But she was soon able to sit up and talk to the neurosurgeons who had saved her. And a smile spread across Brianna’s face as it was confirmed that the removal of the aneurism would cause no future problems. A spontaneous high five between her and the doctor showed what it meant to both her and the experts who had treated her.
Of course, Brianna was determined to get back on her feet and resume her active lifestyle. But because she had not eaten for ten days, she had lost some muscle mass. Still, as the nurses taught her to walk again, she began to resemble her former self. And the day she walked without any help was the day Brianna knew her Olympic dream was still alive.
Back at home, Chad and Jennifer saw their child go from strength to strength as her vision improved and her headaches lessened. If a guardian angel was indeed watching over Brianna as Jennifer believes, it gave the girl her life back. Indeed, two months after her surgery, the pain still sometimes affects her in the form of headaches but overall, she leads a normal life again.
If the basketball injury had never happened, Jennifer firmly believes Brianna would not be alive today. Furthermore, she is certain that she would have blamed Brianna’s initial symptoms on flu. Then, Jennifer told Spectrum Health in March 2017, “Her brain would have swelled until it stopped, and all functioning would have stopped.” For that reason, the family will forever be grateful for that elbow slamming into Brianna’s head.