LUBBOCK, Texas – Evie Williams was just 10-years-old when she suffered a miserable headache that led to a life-threatening discovery.
“The diagnosis was she had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), and downstream from that was an aneurysm that aneurysm tore, which caused the actual brain bleed,” said Toby Williams, Evie’s father. “The location was right in front of her cerebellum, and that’s what led to most of the damage that was done.”
Dr. Saif Bushnaq is a neurologist with the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. He described a brain aneurysm as a balloon-like bulge on the wall of a blood vessel. He said most aneurysms are asymptomatic. That’s until they get bigger or pop, which is what happened in Evie’s case.
“The main thing if it ruptures in the brain, it’s a very small place, so it’s very risky to have this bleed,” Bushnaq said. “It’s a life-threatening bleed, and about 30% of people die within 24 hours.”
Evie’s family said doctors didn’t think she’d make it, but today, she’s still proving them wrong.
“She does have a will to continue, and it’s very strong,” said TJ Williams, Evie’s older brother.
Evie’s mother, Irene Williams, said the now 12-year-old is still working to recover her motor skills and relearn the basics.
“With your first child, you don’t know how to raise a baby and you just learn and go with it, and that’s the same thing with Evie,” Irene said. “The first two weeks we were overwhelmed, but now it’s part of her life. It’s just something you have to do as a parent to take care of your child.”
Evie’s progress has been slow, but her family said she’s made significant strides with the help of therapists.
“Aside from the severe physical therapy that the therapists provide, we do a lot on our own too as far as standing her up and getting her on her bicycle, and tummy time,” Toby said. “She’s yet to have the fine motor skills, but we just see a tiny bit of improvement every day.”
With September being Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, Bushnaq said it’s important to educate others on the disease.
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, there are almost 500,000 deaths worldwide each year caused by brain aneurysms. The nonprofit said about 30,000 people in the U.S. suffer a brain aneurysm rupture each year, with half of those being fatal.
“If someone has a new onset headache or a change in their headache pattern, they should seek medical attention,” Bushnaq said. “Sometimes, the aneurysms can get larger, and they can compress the nerves close by and cause double vision.”
Bushnaq said some things to look out for in the case of a ruptured brain aneurysm can be:
- a sudden and severe headache
- nausea and vomiting
- stiff neck
- blurred or double vision.
“We know this is a serious disease, and we do our best,” Bushnaq said. “Even when it bleeds, patients are doing better and better with time because we are improving medical care.”
Evie’s latest testing revealed no traces of the disease. Her family remains hopeful that one day, she’ll return to the way she was before.
“We were very excited that her chances of another bleed are low, and we were reassured by the neurosurgeon that hopefully, Lord willing, won’t happen again,” Irene said.
Prior to her diagnosis, Evie’s nightly homeschool assignment was to write a three-paragraph story. Fast forward, Evie’s parents turned her stories into a published book. TJ visualized her words and created illustrations throughout the book. “Tiny Stories by Evie” is a 30-page paperback that can be purchased online on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The proceeds go toward Evie’s medical needs.
On May 5, 2023, the one-year anniversary of Evie’s severe brain bleed, Irene published a book called “But Evie Had Other Plans,” which details her experience watching her young daughter go through this tragedy as well as her dedication to helping her recover. The 114-page paperback can be purchased online on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.