A Toddler’s Emergency Brain Surgery

The warning signs started early in Joe’s life. With a head that was always disproportionately large compared to his body, baby Joe from Guelph was a particularly reserved infant who was not very vocal or active for his age. As the months passed, Joe’s parents Frank and Katie began to recognize additional signs that something might not be right with their young son.



“His right eye began to bulge when he was eighteen months old,” recalls Katie. “We spent the next nine months visiting eye doctors trying to find answers, and we were told that it was probably just a blocked tear duct.”

When Joe was just two years old, he visited McMaster Children’s Hospital and underwent an MRI scan. Within days, Katie received a call from the Hospital that suddenly changed the course of Joe’s life.

“I was told that he had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM),” she says. “It was a bad connection between the arteries and veins in his brain, and the pressure on the blood vessels was starving his brain of oxygen, causing it to swell. I needed to get him to McMaster Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery because he was in danger of a deadly rupture.”

Joe met his surgical team at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Under the care of Dr. Brian van Adel and Dr. Olufemi Ajani, Joe underwent embolization surgery to restrict blood flow to certain vessels in his brain that were in danger of rupturing. A follow-up surgery was conducted six weeks later.

“It was remarkable how quickly his condition improved after surgery,” says Katie. “Joe’s eye stopped bulging. His head hardly grew since the surgery, so his body caught up in terms of size. Even his pale complexion gained a healthy colour.”

On top of these noticeable physical changes, Joe’s personality changed as well.

“He became a completely different kid. Joe became more vocal, he started laughing more and he became much more active.”
– Katie

Katie and Frank are grateful for the services provided by the health care specialists at Hamilton Health Sciences who helped them through “the worst experience of their lives.” Thanks to the care he received, the future is looking much brighter for young Joe.

“The people at the hospitals were unbelievable,” according to Katie. “I could tell that everyone was putting every ounce of themselves into their work. Donors should support The Foundation because you never know when you’ll need support like this. Things can change so quickly in the blink of an eye.”

Please consider donating to McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation by clicking here.