Monday, October 22, 2012
McKinney North valedictorian suffers stroke, begins remarkable recovery
The community is taking donations to help with Lauren Allen's unexpected medical expenses.
MCKINNEY Car accidents, wild parties and heartbreakers are usually a mother's worst fears for her college-bound daughter. Blood clot in the brain rarely makes the list.
That nightmare has about a 1-in-32,000,000 chance of reality, said Laura Allen, whose daughter Lauren became "1" when she suffered a stroke Sept. 4 at her Texas A&M University dorm.
"I was afraid I was going to lose her - I really was," Laura said. "It was a 50-50 whether she would make it or not."
Lauren, 18, had Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis, a clot that ultimately forced her to her dorm room floor. Rare, unexpected - and alone.
Laura had texted and called all that Tuesday to no avail. She was checking on her freshman daughter who'd been diagnosed with a sinus infection the day before.
All Lauren remembers is coming back from an early morning class. The 2012 McKinney North High School valedictorian had begun her path to veterinary school. A high school drum major, she was playing French horn for the A&M Wind Symphony.
"She's probably just busy," Laura thought, until about eight hours later. It was nearly nighttime and there'd been no response. "I started to worry a little bit," she said.
She tried contacting people in the dorm, and Lauren's Aggie friends on Facebook. She called Lauren's friend from McKinney who'd also gone to A&M, and asked her to check on her absentee daughter. When no one answered her knocks, campus police was called.
Lauren was in the room, unconscious.
"She was very lucky to be alive at that point," Laura said doctors told her. "The likelihood with her being there that long was not very good for her."
Her situation got bleaker. An ambulance rushed Lauren to a community hospital in College Station - one with a broken MRI machine. She was transferred to St. Joseph hospital in Bryan, where a CT scan revealed the blood clot.
Seizures started the next day, and Lauren was sedated then placed on a ventilator. Doctors said things like "the brain's swollen" and "she's not responding." Come Thursday and Friday, and still no changes.
"We just had to sit and wait," Laura said.
Movement returned on the fourth day, and Lauren gave a thumbs-up. They transported her by air to Zale Lipshy University Hospital at UT Southwestern in Dallas. She was Lauren again.
"I just remember everyone going everywhere and trying to get things done, people coming in with papers for me to sign," Lauren said. "Not really knowing why I was there was weird."
By then, an extended family of friends, classmates and acquaintances knew well enough. McKinney North students had visited her in Bryan. Neighbors showed up on the Allens' doorstep. They rallied support.
"Lauren is an amazing young lady," said Alan Harkey, McKinney North band director. "The outpouring of love and support by the McKinney community speaks to how highly respected Lauren and her family are."
The North band presented the Allens with almost $4,000 in cash and gift cards just through word-of-mouth donations. Students, teachers and parents did what they could.
"Lauren is an amazing young woman, and the Allens are an incredible family," said Stefani Freeman, a family friend. "You can tell how much they give to the community, and how much they mean to our community, by how the community responded to this."
And they all witnessed what many can't explain. Doctors showed the Allens their daughter's scans, admitting, "That's a person who won't wake up," while Lauren regained use of her left arm and leg, and began speaking regularly.
"I asked the doctor why she woke up, and he said he didn't know," Laura said. "It has to be a miracle."
Lauren completed speech, occupational and physical therapy over the next couple of weeks. She read and took notes, things she'd ridden to the top of her high school class. She was released from Zale Lipshy on Sept 26.
Two weeks ago, the McKinney North band came to the Allen house and played for Lauren. Neighbors watched as the school's fight song and alma mater rang out from her front yard.
Band members donned Team Lauren Allen bracelets and shirts. On the back: "Fight on - You're an Aggie, Be Brave - You're a Bulldog, Stay Strong - You're Number One."
"It's eye-opening to almost lose a child, and it's even more eye-opening to see this many people come together," Laura said. "They couldn't do enough for us, and that's an amazing thing. McKinney's a pretty special place to be."
It could be six months before the clot dissolves, and three months before doctors figure out the cause. Lauren's next MRI is in December. She takes blood-thinner medication which, depending on further tests, she may need for a long time.
"Life is obviously very precious, and you shouldn't ever take it for granted," Lauren said. "But it was something you don't expect to happen. I think it taught everybody else, even when I wasn't awake, what life meant."
As for Laura, the miracle may not yet outweigh the nightmare. Lauren will return to A&M in the spring.
Heartbreak is likely the least of mother's worries.
"She'll be texting me every three or four hours, for sure," Laura said. "It's going to be hard to send her back, but she's got things to do in life."
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