Meet Ava: 2018 Family Advocacy Day Champion
Ava is participating at 2018 Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day from June 26-27 in Washington, D.C. During the event, Ava will share information about her health journey and the importance of children’s health care with members of Congress. Below is her story.
One word comes to mind when people meet Ava — “joyful.” She charms everyone with her infectious smile and witty jokes. Appreciative of the simple things in life, Ava marvels over every sunset and adores babies and animals. Where you might see a dandelion as a weed, she would likely exclaim, “What a beautiful flower!”
For those who know the happy and confident 15-year-old, it may come as a surprise that she was once a short-tempered little girl. Ava was suffering through headaches nearly every day of her life and occasional nausea.
A testament to her determined nature, Ava was still finding success at school and on the soccer field despite feeling poorly at times. At age 8, Ava was diagnosed with juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma, a rare, often benign, brain tumor that strikes in childhood.
“Our initial reaction was disbelief,” recalled Anne, Ava’s mother. “This was the child who had scored a goal in her soccer game the previous Sunday. It was hard to believe that five days later she would be hospitalized with a drain in her head and facing surgery.”
Ava’s recovery was challenging. When she woke up from surgery, she couldn’t move or speak. While in the hospital recovering, Ava contracted meningitis and had a series of strokes that led the doctors to put her in a medically-induced coma. She would remain hospitalized for five months following the operation.
Seven years later, while Ava is headache-free, she continues to work on her mobility and processing speed with the help of Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital’s staff of physical therapists, occupational therapists and child life therapists (the final being her favorite because they usually play music and sing with her during therapy).
Ava’s future plans include attending college and earning a degree in human resources. In fact, Ava already has a job offer at a corporate office in North Carolina. The CEO was so impressed with her positive attitude that he decided Ava would be a great role model for all of their employees.
Join us in welcoming Ava to 2018 Family Advocacy Day!