Hi! My name is Rachel Burdick. I’m a 15 year old high school student from the Bay Area. I had my experience with an arteriovenous malformation in sixth grade when it hemorrhaged at gymnastics practice. I started gymnastics at 6 years old and was training elite gymnastics in sixth grade before the AVM hit. It had seemed to be a pretty normal day; I went to school and then onto gymnastics practice. While at gymnastics I started to have an excruciating headache, blurred vision, nausea, and balance problems which I’d later learn was due to the bleeding in my brain.
My mother called the ambulance and I was rushed to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto where I was met with a team of neurosurgeons. I had a CT and MRI that revealed the ruptured AVM in my right occipital lobe. Later, they put in a draining tube into the central ventricle of my brain, and I was on heavy sedation for five days with a feeding tube to let my brain rest. Then, they started to lift the sedatives and I was allowed to sit up in bed and eat. Although my energy was very low and sliding up in bed was my day’s exercise, I was surprised by the level of care and comfort provided by my family and friends. I was transferred from the PICU to a regular room where I continued to heal and do physical therapy to strengthen my weakened muscles and learn to swallow and walk again so I could be cleared to leave the hospital. I stayed for a total of 13 days in the hospital before being released home.
Once at home, I was monitored by my parents and was allowed visitors every once and a while. I continued to heal and adjust to the 30% of left peripheral vision I lost from the bleed. In July of 2016, I had surgery to remove the AVM and they said it was successful. I spent 5 days in the hospital and recovered quickly. In August when I got my checkup angiogram the radiologist told me that they had discovered that a tendril of the AVM was still there. They suggested gamma knife radiation which I had in late October. Since then I’ve had check up MRIs which have showed that the AVM is gone, and soon I’ll have my final angiogram if all goes well. I’m now in high school taking advanced classes and doing gymnastics as a Level 9 Junior Olympic gymnast. I also play the flute in my school band and am an avid environmentalist.
I first walked last year in the Awareness Walk with my dad and best friend to find out more about the community and find others who’d had AVMs. The event was beyond my expectations and I met so many passionate people. This year, I’m fundraising under #TEAMRACHEL (link here: https://www.classy.org/fundraiser/1961219) to help TAAF and their wonderful mission to help others like me. And you know what? Now I can say I am titanium!