Students in Maria Vita’s social psychology class had a visitor this week they won’t soon forget: Emily Graver, who came to the class with her mother, Kerry.
Emily is the 11-year-old who suffers from an extremely rare neurological disease, Rasmussen’s Encephalitis, that attacks the brain, causing debilitating seizures. The only way to control Emily’s seizures was to remove half of her brain through an operation called a hemispherectomy.
Kerry Graver talked about the frustrating onset of the disease in her daughter, who was previously in perfect health, and the devastating effects of Emily’s seizures, which were first diagnosed in February 2012.
After a 12-hour surgery two days after Christmas last year, Emily began the painstaking road to recovery. Without a left hemisphere, Emily’s speech production was disabled. She has lost the vision in the right side of both eyes and initially could not use much of the right side of her body. Emily’s remaining right hemisphere has taken over some of the functions of her removed half.
Doctors in March said she would not walk again, but Emily strolled into class and belted out a couple of songs (she loves to sing) to the cheers of students. Later, she posed with students and played with Stormageddon, a class lab rat.
Kerry Graver said she wanted to share Emily’s story to spread the word about her disease.
“This is nothing she asked for. This is nothing she did. This could happen to anyone,” she said. “Even though Emily struggles every day with almost everything, she’s happy she doesn’t have seizures anymore.”
Students were moved by the presentation, according to Miss Vita, who said they now understand what the disease can do to a person’s brain – and life. “The students were thankful to meet Emily and know she is persevering!”