Student discusses journey with brain surgery

Sophomore Renee Butler now studies neuroscience at Ursinus

Shelsea Deravil

shderavil@ursinus.edu

On September 18, 2008, Renee Butler, a current sophomore at Ursinus, underwent a serious brain surgery that changed the course of her life forever.

Butler was born with tangled arteries in her brain that resulted in missing capillaries. This led to a buildup of blood pressure. The pain worsened by age nine and, eventually, she went to the ER where she waited for four hours to be tested.

“I’m not mad or upset it happened. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it didn’t. My surgery and experience in the hospital influenced my life in so many positive aspects.”  —Renee Butler Class of 2021

Butler was hospitalized for a week, as doctors ran MRI and CAT scans. The doctors concluded that she had had tangled arteries since birth that needed to be surgically removed. In addition, they stated that she was bleeding in all four quadrants of her brain, which caused the massive pain. The last scan test they ran on Butler was to be her surgical procedure. Butler, however, did not know all this information until after her surgery.

How could she not know if she was there? The doctors put her under anesthesia during her operation. When she awoke from her surgery, the left side of her body was immovable (because the tangled arteries caused bleeding in the veins, it led to a stroke).

After the surgery, Butler said, “I was still in pain. I remember feeling defeated when I tried to move my body, and even more the first time I tried to walk again. But I wasn’t scared…I had my mom and a support staff from CHOP who all made me feel safe. It’s truly a test of your strength [and] biggest lesson of never giving up…continuing
to try and push through even when results aren’t being seen right away.” CHOP stands for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Butler relocated for her rehab therapy. Her therapy, The Seashore Rehab House, is a department within CHOP.

Butler lived in The Seashore Rehab House for five and a half weeks to undergo extensive therapy. She was not allowed to be dismissed until she could walk unassisted. Eventually, she did so and was discharged on October 21, 2008. Yet, she continued her therapy for another year, so that her full motion would return.

“I was still in pain. I remember feeling defeated when I tried to move my body, and even more the first time I tried to walk again. But I wasn’t scared…I had my mom and a support staff from CHOP who made me feel safe.”  —Renee Butler Class of 2021

Today, Butler is a striving college student majoring in neuroscience. Within this field of study, she plans to one day con- duct research on pediatric brain trauma — on kids who have gone through an experience similar to her own. Her story was even picked up by the local Fox affiliate.

With 98% of her movement back, Butler is moving forward and stays inspired. Her traumatic experience at such a young age has not stopped her from seeing the good in life.

“I’m not mad or upset it happened,” she states, “I wouldn’t be who I am today if it didn’t. My surgery and experience in the hospital influenced my life in so many positive aspects. The biggest thing for people to remember is that kids can have strokes too. I hope to inspire kids in similar situations to never give up and keep reaching for their goals.”

Great things are yet to come for Renee Butler as she continues to be an inspiration for many just like her.