On May 27, 2019, Trevor came to his mother, Josie, hand on his forehead, with a severe headache and said, “Mom, something is wrong. I need to go to the hospital.”
MRIs showed that Trevor had a category 4 AVM (arteriovenous malformation), a tangled mass of blood vessels on the left side of his brain. The mass had two aneurysms, one which had ruptured and bled around his brain, which caused the headache that brought them to the ER for treatment.
Trevor underwent surgery at another children’s hospital to remove the mass and save him from another rupture — one that could be fatal. During the surgery, he suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on his right side and left his parents very scared for his future.
More complications followed the surgery: pneumonia, sepsis, staph and strep. Trevor stayed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit longer than most patients, giving the neurosurgeons more time to watch his paralysis. When asked about the chance of function returning on his right side, the response was not positive. The doctor there said, “I’m sorry. There is just nothing there. No feeling. No movement. Brain swelling has started to go down. If movement would return, we would have seen hints of it already.”
His parents were told Trevor would most likely not walk again.
Once medically stable, they moved Trevor to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare so he could receive inpatient rehabilitation to recover what function he could. At Gillette, he also worked on speech and vocabulary recall, which had been affected by the surgery. One of the first doctors his parents met was Dr. Mark Gormley, who they describe as “a relaxed and approachable man with the kind of confidence that comes from a lifetime of doing this work.” Trevor’s parents recall Dr. Gormley carefully reviewing the case file, but more importantly they appreciated that he took the time to get to know Trevor. Dr Gormley assured them, “We’ll get him walking.”
“His words carried just enough faith to make me believe it could be true.” said Josie.
After that, the hard work began. Trevor’s days were full of varied therapy classes. The staff was positive and upbeat, so Trevor was too. It didn’t take long for subtle hints of life to reappear on that damaged right side and each day, more words were added to his vocabulary. On only his third day at Gillette, he returned from a session with his therapist, Erin, who said, “Trevor wants to show you something.” His nurses gathered with us to watch and cheer him on. Trevor stood up from his wheelchair and with Erin helping move his right leg, he took his first steps. This was just day three of a six week stay and Trevor’s family was watching him walk, albeit with help. For the first time in weeks, they felt hopeful.
With access to skilled therapists and amazing technology, Trevor’s progress moved quickly. The Gillette rehabilitation gym had hand bikes, a robot walker and even a therapeutic pool with underwater cameras and a treadmill floor. Each machine played a key role at a different time as Trevor made headway, but the keys to his recovery were the therapists who knew the best way to utilize each piece of equipment.
As rehab strengthened Trevor’s body, the people around him expanded his heart. Living at the hospital, he got to know amazing children who each had their own story of struggle and victory. Group activities and games in the evenings got the kids involved, laughing together and cultivating friendships. Each child was an example of bravery and perseverance. The connections Trevor forged with them gave him a new perspective. They grew his capacity to support and care for others, which I would argue, was just as important as his physical rehabilitation.
As it turns out, Dr. Gormley was correct. Six weeks after entering Gillette with no feeling or movement on his right side, Trevor independently walked out of the hospital to go home. He had no walker, no crutch, not even a cane –- just a big smile and a newfound identity as a confident conqueror of challenges.