The road to recovery | Tahoe teen rebounds after near-death brain rupture
December 8, 2011
TRUCKEE TAHOE andamp;#8212; Shock is the best way to describe it, a shock to her parents, to her friends, to her teachers and to her classmates in third period biology who saw it all happen.On Oct. 3, 2011, 16-year-old Lauren McLaughlan, also known as andamp;#8220;Loloandamp;#8221; to her friends at North Tahoe High School, suddenly felt ill and fainted. It was an anomaly, strange for McLaughlan, who has a reputation for being healthy, an accomplished athlete, captain of the cheerleading squad, a varsity soccer player, jazz band member and diligent student.andamp;#8220;I was sitting in class and I got really hot,andamp;#8221; McLaughlan said. When she told her teacher she felt ill, her teacher asked if she could stand and she said no. McLaughlan said the last thing she remembers was a headache seizing her before she went unconscious.McLaughlan was immediately rushed by ambulance to Tahoe Forest Hospital, where a CT Scan indicated she had either a brain tumor or an AVM, an arteriovenous malformation, which is a mass of abnormal blood vessels growing in the brain.Still unconscious, she was rushed to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno for expert care and put into a drug-induced coma as she underwent an emergency operation to alleviate the pressure to her brain. A second surgery was done after a nurse detected indications of a second rupture within the brain at 3 a.m. the next day. Her father, Felix McLaughlan, said the doctor credited the nurse for saving McLaughlan’s life by checking pupil dilation.andamp;#8220;You feel like you’re holding your child over a 1,000-foot cliff and saying I’m not going to let you go,andamp;#8221; said Felix McLaughlan, recalling the experience.The next morning, Lauren was transported by Careflight to the University of California, San Francisco. Felix said the decision was made for the hospital’s top ranking as one of the best in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery. There, the surgeons performed an angiogram X-ray and confirmed that Lauren had the arteriovenous malformation located deep in her right frontal lobe.The news was startling, Felix said, considering AVMs are typically found in less than 1 percent of the population and are generally an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain, usually forming before birth.andamp;#8220;A lot of times when people find out they have this is when there is a rupture (as was the case with Lauren), usually between the ages of 15 and 20,andamp;#8221; said Felix.After the angiogram had confirmed the AVM, Felix, his wife Jennifer and Lauren’s mother Ann McLaughlan met with UCSF AVM specialist Doctor Michael Lawton, who presented the family with options to treat the AVM through surgery or through radiation treatments.andamp;#8220;We talked to him (Lawton) and asked him, andamp;#8216;If this was your daughter, what would you do?’ And he said, andamp;#8216;I’d go in there and get that (recommending surgery),’andamp;#8221; Ann said.The surgery was conducted and thought to be a success; however, a second angiogram X-ray revealed 5 percent of the AVM still remained in McLaughlan’s brain. This resulted, Ann said, in Lauren having to remain in her drug-induced coma for another five days before the second surgery was conducted.Yet, the second surgery was a success, and for the next month Lauren gradually went through a detoxification process from the heavy drugs used to put her in the induced coma, in addition to starting physical therapy.andamp;#8220;I was thrilled and had tears of joy,andamp;#8221; said Ann.
Rehabilitation for Lauren has seen great progress but will require time as she continues to dedicate effort to redeveloping her motor skills on the left side of her body.After waking from surgery and going through the gradual detoxification process associated with the operation, Lauren said she was hopeful but not scared about her recovery.andamp;#8220;Now I just work at perfecting my walk,andamp;#8221; she said.The North Shore teen said her physical therapist told her that her walk will be similar to a bridal procession for a while until she retrains it andamp;#8212; due to a tendency to overcompensate with her left leg while her right side remains at a normal gait.That and moving her left arm are all part of a regular program of physical therapy that Lauren and her family hope will return her to her regular activities at school and in athletics.Sitting with her cat Nala on Friday at her dad’s home in Truckee, Lauren said she’s optimistic and couldn’t be happier with the support she’s received from her friends at school, who have remembered her by dressing up in costumes and wearing aprons as a tribute to Lauren, who’s known for various Halloween costumes she wears during October and her ambition to be a pastry chef.andamp;#8220;The recovery will be a long road and take some time, but with Lauren’s optimistic attitude and strong will, along with support from her family and friends, she will persevere and make a great comeback,andamp;#8221; said Felix.