In a few weeks, the division of Neurosurgery will host our sixth annual Holiday Party to lift spirits and pass out gifts to the patients of Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital. I look forward to this event every year, but the story of how this holiday tradition began makes it truly special for me and my colleagues.
Though she’s now a healthy 12-year-old, Karlynn Vera was just 18-months-old when I first met her and her family. She had experienced a seizure at home, and her parents rushed her to Miller Children’s for tests and treatment.
Karlynn’s had no other symptoms aside from the seizures. But her CT and MRI clearly showed that she had a lesion in the left frontal lobe very close to the motor cortex. The lesion appeared to be a cavernous hemangioma which is combination of a benign tumor and a vascular malformation.
We discussed the treatment options for Karlynn. My recommendation, despite the risks of surgery and the fact that she was neurologically intact, was to undergo a surgical resection of the cavernoma. The goal was to control her seizures and prevent future problems related to the lesion, including growth and hemorrhage of the lesion.
The situation was dangerous for Karlynn, and the Vera family made the decision to trust me with surgically removing the tumor, knowing possible complications could include Karlynn losing movement to the entire right side of her body. However, the surgery was a success, and after recovery Karlynn left the hospital happy and healthy with no complications.
The Vera family took that good outcome and decided to give back to other families who were going through difficult health journeys. They called me a few years ago and told me of their plan to give gifts to the other patients at Miller Children’s during the holidays. After I let them know just how many children that would involve, the Vera family did not hesitate. That first year, the family collected 263 gifts – and the number has grown every year since.
The entire Vera family gets involved to raise money and collect toys for patients. Karlynn’s older sisters, Karina and Evelyn, have held toy drives at their school and Karlynn has donated gifts and helped to buy toys for these patients. Even their church and local community bands together to give gifts and volunteer.
I’ve seen first-hand how incredibly tough the holidays can be for families at Miller Children’s. As doctors, we try everything in our power to help these children heal and recover from their conditions, but know all too well the limitations of our work. In spite of this reality, I take comfort in knowing that our city and our community is lending a helping hand to boost the spirit of these brave kids. And this year, we hope our Holiday Party brings joy to even more children.
If you’d like to donate toys, you can email Karina Vera at email@example.com. If you would like to donate to the Neurosurgery Department, visit this link and click on the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center at checkout.