You’d never be able to tell it by looking at her.
Except for the brace on her leg, 7-year-old Ana West is almost back to the little girl she used to be before she suffered a stroke in November.
This year was Ana’s first year in Girl Scouts, but because of her continued recovery, she missed out on one of the biggest parts about being a Girl Scout– selling and delivering Girl Scout cookies. Now, with the help of one local business and several other Atlanta residents, Ana will get that chance.
Pure Imagination and The Melting Pot purchased 300 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to support Ana and is holding a free event at the Midtown Melting Pot location on Sunday. The Fondue It Forward event is open to the public and participants will be able to create their own cookie-inspired fondue recipes, which could be featured at the restaurant as a limited edition creation at all four Atlanta-area Melting Pot locations.
Ana’s mother, Sandy, said the event will give Ana a chance to see just how many people love and care about her.
“She’ll see what a very special little girl she is,” Sandy said about Ana, who she calls Ana “my little duckling” because of the way she runs.
“We’re so happy just for her to be doing any of that,” she said. Ana no longer has to use a wheelchair and now can run, not exactly as she had before her stroke, but she is running. For that, her family is overjoyed.
“We’re so proud of her. She’s come such a long way in such a short time,” Sandy said, as her voice broke a little, describing the love and admiration she had for her little girl.
Beginning just before the start of this school year, Ana began complaining of painful headaches. Sandy, and her husband, Denny, were unsure of the cause.
They had her eyes checked. They thought they might be hunger headaches. Nothing seemed to show up as the cause.
On November 9, Ana suffered from such a painful headache that she began vomiting. Her mother took her to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where she remained for six hours as the doctors treated her and what they first thought was a migraine.
Three days later on Nov. 12, in the middle of the night, Ana woke up with another painful headache. Sandy had no idea that what would come next would be the most terrifying hours of her life.
“It happened so incredibly fast,” Sandy said.
At 2 a.m., her little girl was vomiting again. At 4 a.m., Ana was no longer vomiting and it seemed that she was feeling just a little better. Ana began to stand up.
“And she just hit the floor. She lost everything,” her mother remembered. “We thought maybe she was dehydrated.”
Sandy rushed Ana to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she underwent a CT scan. Her husband, Denny, stayed at home to care for their younger 5-year-old daughter, Ariel.
This meant Sandy was alone when the doctor told her that they found a mass in Ana’s brain and were completing additional tests to find out exactly what the mass was.
“That was the worst, most terrifying, horrific hour of my life,” Sandy said.
She felt a sense of relief briefly once the doctors at Children’s were able to tell her that Ana did not have cancer. She did, however, have a rare condition where extra blood vessels are located on the top of her brain stem. They have no use.
The vessels swelled and started to bleed, Sandy described. The blood had nowhere to go. They clotted and clotted, finally growing so large that they pushed on her right temporal lobe and caused a stroke.
Because of the location of the extra vessels, Ana’s parents don’t want to have them surgically removed since there would be a 99.9 percent chance that Ana would be permanently paralyzed afterwards.
“We just have to pray to God that it never happens again,” although Sandy said there is a 35 percent chance that it could happen again within the next year.
After her stroke, Ana spent a month at Children’s Healthcare and another six weeks at Children’s Healthcare rehabilitation center. She has regained almost all her motor functions. She wears a brace on her leg, but she can walk and run and play with her younger sister.
“If you just look at her, you can’t tell.”
She is self-conscious about her leg brace and almost always wears pants now, her mother said. Her left hand has not yet regained its motor functions and sometimes just hangs there, “like a ghost arm.”
In school, she is having a hard time since the stroke has slight affected her learning and speech abilities. She goes to physical, occupational and speech therapy twice a week and will have to have an MRI once a year for the rest of her life.
“Maybe she won’t be able to do gymnastics,” Sandy said, but she will be able to do most things other little girls do. “We’re just going to do the best.”
Sunday’s Fondue It Forward event is free to attend, though donations to Pure Imagination or Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are encouraged.
Where: The Melting Pot 754 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308
When: Sunday, March, 3 from 1–4 pm