Ryan’s Story: Battling Against Brain Pain


In the fall of 2012, things were going well for Ryan. An active 7 year old, he had just finished his first season of tackle football with a winning record and was a star student. One evening in late October, Ryan suddenly suffered severe headache pain.  His parents brought him to a local emergency room where a routine CT scan found something abnormal. Within hours, Ryan was rushed to UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital for care.

“I couldn’t believe we were in this situation,” said Shannon, Ryan’s mom. “He looked so healthy on the outside.” Tests confirmed a small arteriovenous malformation (AVM) – a knot in a blood vessel – deep in his brain stem.

A team of physicians agreed that Ryan needed surgery to remove the AVM. Shannon was relieved that it was so easy to communicate with Ryan’s medical team.  “They did a wonderful job of explaining what they expected would happen during a series of surgeries, and they were honest about the things they couldn’t predict since they were working in the brain.”

Five surgeries, numerous complications and 14 weeks later, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, Ryan finally went home. With the help of a Rainbow teacher, Ryan was up to date on his school work. “I finished 2nd grade in my classroom and went to 3rd grade with my friends!” he said.

Shannon, a teacher, appreciates the supportive care Ryan and her family received from Rainbow’s physicians, nurses and staff. “I always treat my students the way I hope my children’s teachers treat them – with love and kindness. That is exactly what I experienced from the doctors and nurses at Rainbow,” she said. “They knew we needed their support. They cared for Ryan like he was their own child. They brought us food from their homes for the holidays.”

Today, Ryan, 10, is back to playing sports and excelling in school. Nearly three years have passed since his long hospital stay, but Ryan remembers the special people he met at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “I wouldn’t be too sad to come back to Rainbow – other than the medical stuff,” he said.

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