Fast recovery for brain surgery patient at Christmas

A few days before Christmas, 14-year-old Veronica Hernandez Arellano woke up with a headache that wouldn’t go away.  So when her family noticed her becoming more and more unresponsive a little while later, Veronica was rushed to the Valley’s only Level I trauma center at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.

Fortunately for Veronica, neurosurgeon Meg Verrees was at Community Regional when she arrived and Veronica’s treatment began as she was raced through the trauma doors. What Veronica’s family didn’t know, is that a congenital defect – an abnormal connection between the artery and the veins – caused a very large bleed in her brain.

“If it’s small, we can watch it,” Dr. Verrees explained. “But something this large, it’s life threatening. She could have died.”

 As a life-saving measure, Dr. Verrees had to remove the blood and the clot and try not to cause any more problems while performing this intricate procedure.

“When it came out, we were concerned because it was near her motor area,” Dr. Verrees said. “It was in her left temporal area and that is the primary speech center.”

Images of Veronica's brain prior to surgery.

The first day of recovery left Veronica in a very weak state and her family gathered around to support her. But she soon surprised Dr. Verrees by starting to write letters and use her phone. By the second day she was sitting up in her chair and then walking on the third day. Veronica’s sister Beatrice said her family was thrilled with the outcome of the surgery.

“She’s moving and talking and we are all surprised she is recovering so quickly,” Beatrice said. “She is really excited about going home for Christmas.”

“It was just marvelous to see her go from unresponsive to home in just five short days,” Dr. Verrees said.

Veronica received the news on Dec. 23 that if all went well she would be discharged the next day on Christmas Eve.

“It was very special,” Beatrice said. “First we get to take her home for Christmas and it is my father’s birthday. This will be a double celebration.”

 They couldn’t thank Dr. Verrees enough. This is truly a miracle her father said as Beatrice translated in Spanish. He said this was the best birthday present he’d ever received – just having Veronica home and recovering.

This story was reported by Mary Lisa Russell. She can be reached at mrussell@communitymedical.org.