Brain Surgery Gives Teen a Second Chance at Life

Allison-Coreas-OC-Teen-Brain-Surgery
Courtesy of Coreas family

With the dream of being a child psychologist, a young woman from Orange County faced a medical condition that put her on the verge of life and death.

Three years ago, when Allison Coreas was only 15 years old, she was in her classroom, at Esperanza High School, when she suddenly began to feel ill.

She felt dizzy, nauseous and had a hard time speaking.

"It's a day I will never forget, even though it has been a long time," said Wendy Coreas, Allison's mother.

Wendy says that her daughter never showed symptoms of being sick. Within two hours, after dropping her off at school, she received a call at work notifying her that her daughter was in the emergency room at Placentia-Linda hospital.

"I started crying knowing that something was very wrong," said Wendy.

The mother explains that her husband was 15 minutes from the hospital and she was 30 minutes away, but she does not remember how she arrived first.

At the hospital, they examined Coreas' brain and saw that she had bleeding.

It was there when the doctor informed Wendy that her daughter went into a coma and there was nothing they could do for her.

"I have that image clear in my mind. It was the worst thing that I had to live as a mother and as a person in general," says Wendy.

Wendy says the doctor informed her that she was her daughter's last memory before falling into a coma.

"Tell her that I love her very much," was the message Coreas asked the doctor to tell Wendy.

Placentia-Linda's doctors called the UC Irvine hospital to transfer Coreas, hoping they could help her.

UC Irvine accepted her and she was taken to the emergency room where she underwent a CT scan and doctors discovered a brain bleed that put her life in danger.

Although at the beginning the doctors at UC Irvine also thought that she was not going to survive, she woke up from the coma a few days later and that was when the process of surgery and recovery began.

It was a day that the Coreas family will never forget. Allison had just turned 15 on May 4, 2016, a day before she became ill.

In those days, her family was preparing everything to celebrate her quinceañera that would have been on May 7, 2016.

"It was painful to look at her dress and all the decorations and have to cancel everything we had been looking forward to for a long time," said Wendy.

By taking her to the UC Irvine University Medical Center, doctors diagnosed Coreas with arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a tangle of abnormal blood vessels that connect arteries and veins in the brain.

Coreas' is not as rare as it sounds, according to the National Organization of Rare Disorders, some 30,000 people in the United States are affected by AVM every year.

Neurologist Dr. Cyrus Dastur and neurosurgeon Dr. Li-Mei Lin took two days creating multiple drains in Coreas' brain.

"An AVM is a rare and complicated condition," said Dr. Lin. "Time and access to advanced neurological care is crucial to a patient's recovery and even survival. If not properly diagnosed and treated, an AVM can lead to stroke, seizures, brain damage or death."

Coreas' blood pressure was restored, her brain swelling was reduced and she was able to return it to a stable condition.

After this procedure, the young woman woke up and was able to follow some basic commands.

One of the doctors who treated Coreas, Dr. Lin, performed an embolization, plugging the problematic blood vessels. With Coreas' condition stabilized, Dr. Lin surgically removed the AVM.

Coreas stayed at the UC Irvine hospital for about 25 days.

She spent 15 days in the critical neurological care unit, which is unique to the UC Irvine hospital, and also spent 10 days at the UCI Health rehabilitation center.

Coreas was finally able to return to his classes after spending almost a whole month in the hospital.

During this time she spent in the hospital, the young woman worked with an occupational therapist to regain her strength and mobility.

Since the day Coreas was discharged, Cynthia Cook, her occupational therapist accompanied her to provide support, friendship and encouragement. She even accompanied her on her return to school.

Now 18, Coreas continues her education with the hope of one day being a child psychologist and being able to help children who have been through traumatic moments in their lives.

"I am happy with the decisions she makes for her life. I want her to do what she sets out to be, to be a good person, to know that she is a very lucky person to be alive, to value her life," said Wendy.

Her experience with AVM was not easy, but with the support of UC Irvine doctors, her occupational therapist and her family, the young woman continues on her way to reach her goals.

"I'm so thankful to have made a full recovery," says Coreas. "I start college in the fall and will study child psychology, so I can help kids who undergo traumatic medical experiences, like I did."

Allison now attends Santiago Canyon College in Orange County, and plans to transfer to UC Irvine after two years.

Wendy and her family found themselves in a very difficult situation, but they never lost hope.

"When life gives you another chance you must move forward because this is what we had to live through and although sometimes we do not know why life tests us like this we have no choice, we must move forward," said Wendy.

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