AVM: Elle

Elle Davidson from West Midlands had achieved 12 A* GCSE'S. She was making plans to go to Oxford or Cambridge University when she collapsed with an undiagnosed symptomless condition she’d had and which resulted in a brain injury.

Published: October 2015. Date of brain injury: January 2013 (young person aged 16 years).
Elle was a typical 16-year-old girl who loved dancing, cycling and walking her dog, Buddy until her life changed forever in January 2013. She was on her way to the cinema when she collapsed at her home. A CT scan revealed she had been born with an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) which had previously shown no symptoms. AVM is a tangle of blood vessels in the brain which bypasses normal brain tissue and directly diverts blood from the arteries to the veins. It’s thought to occur in less than 1 percent of the population and more common in males. Elle had sustained two bleeds to the brain and underwent an operation, but then had a stroke followed by two heart attacks. Her family were asked to say their goodbyes on six occasions as she was given little chance of survival.
Elle with her sister, Amira and mum, Leah before her brain injury
Elle had sustained a severe brain injury. She had a shunt fitted to drain the brain fluid, and had a metal plate fitted to replace the part of her scull that had been removed. She lost her sight, was unable to communicate, and was fed through a tube directly into her stomach. Seven months after she had collapsed, Elle was transferred to The Children’s Trust in Surrey for specialist rehabilitation. Elle’s family, including her mum, Leah was able to stay as Elle received intensive rehabilitation including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy and sensory lessons. Leah explains: “When Elle arrived for rehabilitation she was doing absolutely nothing and was having horrific spasms. With lots of physio and changes to her medication, Elle now rarely has any episodes of uncontrollable stiffness. "The Children’s Trust worked hard encouraging Elle to try to communicate with her right thumb, and taking her on outings so that noises and people etc didn't make her feel distressed. But Elle’s biggest improvement was learning to eat and drink again. Elle has all of her meals orally now and hasn't had a peg feed for 18 months. "Her time at The Children’s Trust was amazing for us as a family, mainly because Elle's sister, Amira and I had a bed! No more sleeping on the floor! It was the first time we felt "safe" and slowly Amira gained her confidence with the staff." Elle’s condition had a huge impact on the whole family including Amira who was 14 at the time and idolised her big sister. She refused to leave Elle and so stayed at The Children’s Trust with her mother. Amira became so protective that she found it difficult to let other people do things for her. The family home had to be adapted to help meet Elle’s needs and this met a great deal of change. Leah said: "It has been hard but amazing to finally get home – although difficult to leave the safety blanket of The Children’s Trust. But it’s great to finally bring Elle home where she belongs. We have a massive hill to still climb, but we will climb it together and we will get to the top."
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