ROSEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — After a 9-year-old Roseville girl suffered a severe stroke last February, doctors said her chances of survival were slim. Now, even though Grace Alpers has one more surgery left, she has already defied the experts’ odds.

“She was about as close to being dead when she came in as any child we’ve seen,” said Dr. Joseph Petronio, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “I don’t think I have ever seen a child come in so profoundly ill and make such a dramatic recovery.”

Grace’s mother, Christine Alpers, remembers when the sudden illness began on Feb. 1, as Grace was getting ready for school.

“She just came in and said she had a headache, which is uncommon for her. I told her to get a glass of water, go get something, she’d be fine if she ate something,” said Christine.

Her mother called 911 minutes later.

“Her left side had gone weak and she was drooling,” Christine said. “She is a perfectly healthy little girl never even been on antibiotics in her life, nothing, so for this to happen, just a little mind blowing.”

An ambulance rushed Grace to St. Paul Children’s where she underwent immediate brain surgery, after a scan revealed a severe brain bleed.

Petronio, who performed the surgery, says Grace was born with a blood vessel defect called Arteriovenous Malformation, also known as an AVM, which burst in her brain. He describes her condition as a tangle of blood vessels similar to a ball of yarn. The rupture was so severe, Petronio says she defied a world of worst case scenarios.

“We were amazed by her recovery. It’s a credit to the entire system,” said Petronio, who says timing was crucial for the life-saving surgery.

“It’s basically a blood vessel that is not supposed to be there, sometimes they never burst, sometimes they do, and her’s burst,” said Christine. “It was the size of a grapefruit they said. Her nurses said it was one of the largest they have ever seen and she shouldn’t have survived.”

Grace spent nearly two months between St. Paul Children’s and Gillette Children’s.

On Wednesday morning, she will undergo one last brain surgery to remove the remainder of the problem vessels.

Grace is expected to fully recover, but has little memory of her most severe moments.

“I think it’s awesome that I did survive,” said Grace, who instead with a smile remembers the things that are most important to 9-year-old patients. “The nurses were good, food was good, therapy good — all so awesome.”

Petronio said about 1 in between 5,000 and 10,000 children are born with this same type of blood vessel problem. He says it can serve as a reminder to parents that in children, not all headaches are benign.

He added that children with an AVM condition are more likely to have strokes than adults with the same condition.

Comments (14)
  1. KeepItReal says:

    Nice to hear really good news sometimes!

  2. Megan Jirovec Williams says:

    What a brave young lady! My mother had the very same condition 11 years ago. She suffered from a stroke and was diagnosed with AVM. My mom was in grave condition–literally the brink of death–and was saved by a wonderful neurosurgeon, Dr. Keith Katner.

    It was wonderful to hear Grace is doing so well as my mother is today! I wish her all the best and continued recovery!!!

  3. Les Johnson says:

    What an amazing story. I’ve never heard of this AVM before. Scary stuff.

    I have to point out to the author that there is no such word as “her’s” though.

    1. AJ says:

      Way to focus on the important things. . .

  4. Mary Lehan says:

    In October, 1991, I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. I remember little to nothing about my experience except I was 48 years old and the single mother of two children. It has been told to me I was in ICU for 8 days, but remember nothing.
    It has now been 19-1/2 years since the experience and it has left me with
    double vision and little feeling on the left side of my body. Many people have told me I should have died. But I thank the Lord for bringing me through the ordeal.

    1. Les Johnson says:

      Sounds like some neurologists should be higher on your lists of folks to thank since I’m guessing they were the ones who “brought you through the ordeal.”

      We all reap the benefits of medical advancements.

      1. ThankTheLord says:

        Who do you think created these doctors and medical advancements that are able to save lives??

        1. Les Johnson says:

          Their parents created them just like my parents created me. Humans studied hard to come up with those medical advancements. They weren’t given to us by some mystical magician in the clouds. Use your head.

          1. ThankTheLord says:

            Dear Les Johnson
            After seeing your comments on several news articles, I see that you need someone to pray for you. Have you heard the saying, If you can’t say anything nice dont’ say anything at all. Maybe you should consider this before leaving any comments.

            1. Backin86 says:

              The most condescending thing a religious person could say is “I’ll pray for you”

              You know what atheists do that you folks don’t? Look at all religions equally.

              If you’re so caught up your dogma to be blind to the fact that millions have died for thousands of years until SCIENCE was able to take a foothold on society to make these advancements – you’re just being ignorant.

  5. Gloria says:

    So happy young Grace survived and is doing so well. God’s blessings to her, her family, and the medical staff.

  6. Alltheglorytogod says:

    This family is a living breathing miracle! All the glory goes to God for Grace’s wonderful and full recovery!

  7. Schae says:

    Grace is one very lucky little girl! Good luck and wishes for a speedy recovery for when she has her next surgery (which I think it was today).

  8. Sarah in Outstate MN says:

    Have a great life Grace. Be happy.

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