HANSON — A prognosis of complete recovery and riding her longboard are the two things Jess Nihan, 22, of Hanson desires with undeniable determination. She knows only time will restore her health and bring her these rewards but for now she is happy to be alive and at home with her family.
“Every day I think of a reason to be happy. My life is better than a lot of people’s and I am lucky the whole way through,” Jess said, smiling at her mom.
Jess, a graduate of Whitman-Hanson’s Class of 2017 suffered a stroke as a result of arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is shaped during uterine development. AVM is a snarl of abnormal and inadequately formed blood vessels present at birth but in most cases — such as hers — it is never discovered.
According to Brigham and Women’s website, the tangle of arteries and veins usually develops before birth or shortly after. Occasionally, an AVM forms later in life, though it is unclear if the risk for an AVM is passed down through families genetically. For someone with an AVM, an increase in blood pressure is a risk factor for rupture.
The sequence of events and emotions surrounding Jess’ stroke are still raw for mom Julie Nihan, who spoke with gratitude as she recounted the hours following Jess’ brain bleed the day after Thanksgiving. She credited the quick assessments made by EMS, which saved valuable time during her daughter’s medical crisis.
In each step the medical professionals made all the fastest and most accurate decisions in saving Jess’ life, she added.
Following the November holiday, Julie and husband Greg had their sons home and a sister visiting, who happens to be an ICU nurse.
The Nihan’s had a relatively quiet day.
Jess had come downstairs for Tylenol complaining of a migraine and returned to her room but in minutes was calling for her aunt. A seizure ensued as Hanson Firefighters/Paramedics were called.
Jess has no recollections of the incident or the four weeks following.
She was transported to the Brockton Hospital by Hanson firefighters and paramedics and was evaluated with imaging in the Emergency Room. The ER doctor diagnosed the bleed and she was airlifted to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston within the hour.
Jess comforted her mom with a tissue-taking a break from medical facts and talked about her short hair, which is just starting to grow back. Her scar is thick and resembles a zipper where her skull was removed then replaced as her brain healed.
With a giggle she called her scar “Bad Ass” when she described it — in the sense it is a sign of her survival — as a reminder of her resilience and her determination to recover.
She keeps an eye on her mobile independence physically but she also cannot wait to drive again in due time.
Her work at The Home for Little Wanders as a social service residential relief counselor gives her insight to the lives of less fortunate youth. She cannot wait to return to the work she loves, she added.
Jess is passionate about her profession and strives to be a positive role model in their world.
Describing herself as goofy, thankful and lucky for her life she talked about the appreciation that she has gained as her family has surrounded her every step of the way.
Nihan is working intensely on regaining her speech. Her mobility is slower but she is intentional with skills such as: drinking from a glass. Her rehabilitation is intense and has become her purpose. Recovery after this medical crisis can take a year or more, according to data from Brigham and Women’s Hospital AVM treatments and diagnosis.
Jess’ Neurosurgeon Dr. Nirav J. Patel of Brigham and Women’s Hospital performed her repairs needed to stop the bleed and correct the entangled vessels from AVM.
According to his in-depth discussion on AVM treatments and diagnosis Patel explained what AVM is on his patient page which includes videos of the type of repairs he makes to the brain.
“The tangle of arteries and veins usually develops before birth or shortly after,” according to data on Brigham and Women’s website (AVM and Neurological specialties). “Occasionally, an AVM forms later in life, thought it is unclear if the risk for an AVM is passed down through families genetically. For someone with an AVM an increase in blood pressure is a risk factor for rupture.”
For more information on AVM and data on recovery from the procedure such as Jess’ visit brighamandwomens.org.
Jess is the only girl with three brothers one of whom is her twin — she has always been close to her mom and now more so than ever.
This month when she returned home after three months at Spaulding Rehabilitation in Boston Jess still has her appointments for outpatient services as she continues to gain her strength. She was welcomed with an outpouring of messages, well-wishes and flowers.
“Living in a small town all the training helped save her life, said Julie when every second counted.
The family is grateful for each person who had a hand in the positive out coming.