A BRIEF HISTORY
Back in late January or early February of 1997, Ashley began waking up in the mornings feeling nauseated. She had been complaining about her sinuses draining into her stomach at night. On many mornings she would throw up, and then feel OK and go on to school. Usually when she threw up, it was just a bunch of phlegm. We figured she was having allergy and sinus troubles, and began trying to find an over-the-counter medicine that would help. There were a few days when she threw up at school also, but we were not particularly alarmed because there had been several viruses and various other "bugs" making their rounds at the schools.
During Spring Break, I led a church ski trip to Colorado, and Susan and the kids went with me. We left Waxahachie on Sunday morning, March 9. Ashley had been feeling pretty good the last couple of days of school before Spring Break, and we were encouraged by that. When we got to Colorado, however, we found that Ashley began having the same problems -- nausea and vomiting. She also began having headaches. She skied a couple of times, but sat out most of the time because she wasn't feeling good. On Wednesday, she threw up about seven times throughout the course of the day.
FALSE RAY OF HOPE
Concerned that Ashley was getting worse, we took her to a clinic in a nearby little town on Thursday. They checked her out, did a urinalysis, and diagnosed her with a serious bladder infection. They prescribed an antibiotic for the infection, and some anti-nausea medicine to go along with it. We were relieved to think that we had finally found the cause of Ashley's troubles, and were on the road to putting it behind us.
NEW SYMPTOMS APPEAR
Thursday night, we had a horrible night. Ashley tossed and turned all night long, complaining of her stomach hurting and her head hurting. She threw up several times throughout the night.
On Friday morning, we left Colorado and drove all the way back to Waxahachie, Texas. The entire trip took about 20 hours, including pit stops. Ashley slept most of the trip, but when she was awake she was complaining about seeing two of everything. We arrived back home at about 3:00 AM.
Saturday was kind of a lazy day. We ran a few errands, went out to eat supper, then rented a movie to watch as a family to sort of wind down the evening. As we sat watching the movie, Ashley began complaining, "I can't see the movie very good. I can't see it!" This really scared Susan and me.
We called a good friend of ours who is an eye doctor, and he told us to bring Ashley over to his house so that he could check her out. He did the little flashlight test on Ashley's eyes, and told us that there was something unusual happening with her eyes that we would probably need to have checked out. He also said that, for a child to suddenly start experiencing double vision, there had to be something that was causing the double vision, and we needed to find out what that something was. He suggested we take her to Children's Medical Center in Dallas, to the emergency room ... so we did.
THE HORRIBLE TRUTH IS REVEALED
We arrived at the Children's Medical Center Emergency Room at approximately 11:30 PM on Saturday, March 15. After explaining our situation to the triage nurse, Ashley was moved into an examination room and a CT Scan was ordered. At 2:30 AM, the Doctor called us out of the CT Scan room, sat us down, and said, "We've found a brain tumor".
We were completely shocked and horrified! In Susan's words, it all seemed like a bad dream. The only problem with this bad dream was that we did not wake up from it. Ashley was admitted to the hospital, and a plan began to be developed as to how the tumor would be dealt with.
THE WORD IS SPREAD
After we finally got Ashley settled into a room, I left the hospital and drove the 35 miles back home to Waxahachie. It was about 6:30 on Sunday morning. I called Susan's and my families to let them know about Ashley. I called a few other people at churches we had been associated with, and asked them to begin praying for Ashley. Then I sat down at my computer and prepared an e-mail message titled "URGENT PRAYER REQUEST". In it, I briefly mentioned Ashley's condition, asked for the recipients of the e-mail to begin praying fervently for Ashley, and also requested that the message be forwarded to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. I had no idea the kind of response that would be generated from this one e-mail that I sent to about 20 or 30 people.
(You can read the text of the "URGENT PRAYER REQUEST" e-mail, simply by clicking on the link.)
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI)
On Monday, March 17, a series of MRI pictures were taken of Ashley's head and spine. The pictures of her head did not reveal any new spots, only the single tumor seen on the original CT scan. We did learn later that the spinal pictures revealed several spots about which the doctors were concerned. The plan was to go ahead and do surgery on Tuesday to take out as much of the tumor as possible. The resected tumor would then be sent to a pathology lab to determine what type of tumor we were dealing with, so the doctors could begin planning a treatment protocol.
Ashley's surgery began at about 9:30 AM on Tuesday, March 18. At 3:30 PM, the pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Swift, came out into the waiting room to tell us the results of the six-hour operation. They were able to remove about 95% of the tumor. They couldn't remove the entire tumor because it was attached to the brain stem, and they could not risk damage to the brain stem by attempting to remove that portion of the tumor. Therefore, about 5% of the mass was left in Ashley's brain, according to Dr. Swift's estimation.
Ashley was moved into ICU immediately following surgery, and Susan and I were able to go in and see her within about 30 or 45 minutes. She looked remarkably better than I had imagined she would. There was little or no swelling, and she had color in her cheeks. A temporary tube was implanted during surgery to allow excess fluids in the brain to drain, thereby preventing swelling and pressure build-up in the brain immediately following surgery. That tube was clamped off on Wednesday, and Ashley's cranial pressure remained normal the rest of Wednesday and Thursday. The tube was removed on Thursday, and Ashley was moved to a regular room on Thursday evening.