Written by Laurie Moore Thakker

On New Year’s Eve 2016, fourteen-year-old  Dafne Flores was celebrating with a few of her friends, taking turns singing  their  favorite  songs in  her  room.  Around  10:30

that evening, Dafne complained of a painful headache and fell on her way to get some headache medicine. Her last memories are of her friends helping her to bed, giving her ice for her head, and then later getting in the car with her mom, Angelita. Luckily, Angelita followed her instincts and took Dafne to an emergency clinic near her house, a decision that saved her daughter’s life.

A CT scan revealed a brain hemorrhage and Dafne was rushed to Wolfson Children’s

Hospital where she was unresponsive upon her arrival. Another CT scan revealed the cause of the brain hemorrhage was a condition known as arteriovenous malformation, which are congenital abnormal connections between arteries and veins. Patients with this condition do not have the normal network of tiny vessels that connects arteries and veins.

Dr. Alexandra Beier, a pediatric neurosurgeon, operated on Dafne that night and performed a decompressive craniotomy and partial removal of the hematoma. Dafne also had an angiogram and an embolization, all of which required a month of recovery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. As is expected, Dafne reports that memories of the recovery period are fuzzy. Dafne does remember the caring nurses at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. She recalls one specific memory of a nurse giving her a ball to hold and the feeling that everything was going to be alright when she held the ball in her hands.

After her recovery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Dafne was then transferred to Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital where she was able to recuperate in the company of other kids. When asked about her time there, Dafne said it was a bit like being at a camp. She fondly remembers making friends with other kids, learning to cook lasagna, making “slime,” playing board games, and another patient that made her a care package complete with nail polish, a necklace, and letters. When she returned home a month later, Dafne was able to resume her schoolwork with the help of a special computer program and a math teacher who visited her house.

Before her diagnosis, Dafne had enjoyed skating, shopping, listening to music, and playing games with her friends. She was enrolled in an ROTC program and planned to try out for her high school track team. Dafne will have another angiogram this month to confirm that she is in good health, and she is looking forward to resuming all of her normal activities including running and spending time outside. Dafne’s family is looking forward to having a small party to celebrate Dafne’s quinceanera, a special fifteenth birthday celebration, in the fall.

While Dafne found it challenging to be in the hospital and rehabilitation facility for two months this year, she has a positive outlook on life and hopes that sharing her story will help other patients feel optimistic. Her experiences at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital have inspired her to become a pediatric nurse. Dafne hopes that as a nurse she can spend time with patients and share her story. She ultimately hopes to show other patients “that everything can get better.”