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Updated: Tuesday, 13 Nov 2012, 11:08 AM CST
Published : Tuesday, 13 Nov 2012, 11:08 AM CST
Jenny Biggs, a Fairhope resident and former USA Children's & Women's Hospital patient, was selected to represent the state of Alabama by Children's Miracle Network.
Below is a detailed look at Jenny's story. Following the story is a link to information about how you can take part in an upcoming Radiothon and help the Children's Miracle Network.
Jenny’s brain tumor is called a Cerebellar Astrocytoma which is typically benign when found in adolescents. Jenny’s tumor measured 62x34 mm in size and was blocking the flow of spinal fluid causing pressure in her cranium resulting in severe headaches. It is unknown what causes these tumors and they usually form very quickly. Jenny’s physicians were able to determine that her tumor had been there for quite some time due to the thickness of her cranium. Jenny also suffered a blood clot after surgery requiring an emergency craniotomy.
Jenny first felt sick in February 2010. After a few days, Jenny’s mom thought she must have the flu. When she still felt sick almost a week later they decided she was having migraines. Throughout the year, Jenny’s migraines continued to worsen. In between severe, debilitating migraines were moderate to severe headaches every day. An MRI was scheduled but Jenny and her mom found themselves in a local area emergency room one night after Jenny had finally gotten so sick she couldn’t even lean over to vomit. Jenny’s mom found her lying on the floor too sick to move. When Jenny’s mom rushed to her side, Jenny whispered “I want to die”. Her pain couldn’t wait any longer and it was time to get some help. The doctor that treated her originally thought she was having hormonal migraines and sent her home after the pain subsided. 24 hours later she woke up still in excruciating pain and they headed back to the ER. After a 3 hour wait, a doctor ordered a CT scan of Jenny’s head and at 2:00 a.m. Jenny and her mom were sent to USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital by a very concerned physician.
Jenny and her mom arrived at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital at 4:00 a.m. At 9:00 that morning Jenny was having an MRI when they met Dr. Martino, the neurosurgeon on duty. Jenny’s mom says, “Dr. Martino walked into the room calmly and assuredly. He had a gentle smile and didn’t make promises but I’ll never forget what he said because it was the first moment that I thought everything was going to be alright. He said the prognosis looks favorable and he was pretty certain it was benign.” Jenny’s tumor was first discovered at 2:00 a.m. and 11 hours later she was in surgery.
It is unknown how much longer Jenny could have lived before the tumor ruptured, but she wouldn’t have survived that. The surgery to remove the tumor and insert a shunt to drain fluid went routinely well. The surgical team thought they were finished when Jenny developed a blood clot in another area of her brain and an emergency craniotomy had to be performed. Jenny’s mom said, “Our high hopes turned into fears that Jenny would be left brain damaged or paralyzed.”
The next 48 hours were terrifying for Jenny’s family as Jenny remained on a ventilator unable to breathe on her own. There was fear of partial paralysis like that of a stroke victim due to the clot. Jenny’s family prayed and prayed and on day 2, Jenny woke up. Jenny’s mom says, “I’ve never been happier to hear the word ‘mama’ when she looked at me and recognized me. She whispered, ‘its okay mama’, as I was smiling through my tears.”
Jenny remained in PICU for 5 days and then on the Pediatric floor for another week. Her surgery relieved the immense pressure on her brain but left her unable to walk, talk clearly or control her right hand. She began speech therapy and physical therapy at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital and then was released to Rotary Therapy for another week.
Over the course of the next few months, Jenny would have to relearn how to walk, talk and use her right (dominant) hand. She was unable to return to high school but finished her freshman year homebound. It was during this time of intense therapy and being torn from her former life that depression and post traumatic stress disorder set in. Jenny needed help emotionally but fought visiting a doctor because it just added to the trauma. Jenny’s family went through the worst time for the next five months while Jenny suffered emotionally. They finally found the right kind of treatment for her and have been so happy to see “the old Jenny” return! She returned to school for her sophomore year and went on her first date to the Homecoming dance in September.
3They say, “no one forgets a red head” and that couldn’t be truer about Jenny. You are quick to notice Jenny in a crowd because of her beautiful red hair and high watt smile but it doesn’t take long to realize that what’s inside is what truly sets Jenny apart from all the rest.
Jenny’s physicians, nurses and therapists were amazed at Jenny’s positive attitude throughout her recovery. One nurse started calling her “Rock
Star” because she was so inspired and in awe of Jenny’s amazing determination and positive attitude.
It is still unknown what permanent damage Jenny will sustain because she is still within the one-year window of recovery for brain trauma. Her balance is still a bit off, her stamina is still low, her speech not quite back to normal and her right hand still shakes but she continues to make progress. Even though she hasn’t recovered 100%, Jenny has learned to see the joy in life again. She is so happy to be alive and sees the world as a beautiful place and everyone in it as special. Among friends, she has taken on the role of encourager and tells her friends daily that they are special and unique and she loves them. Jenny knows that having this experience has shaped who she is. She even admits she wouldn’t take back having the tumor because it made her a more special person. There is no denying that the future is VERY bright for Jenny Biggs!
Jenny was quiet and shy as a child, but in middle school she really blossomed into the beautiful, outgoing girl she is today. Her mom says, “She has the silliest sense of humor and loves to write funny poems, jokes and even raps.” That sense of humor certainly helped her overcome many obstacles. Since her surgery, her writing has taken a more serious tone and she can express her feelings without covering them up with humor. She even entered a poetry contest online and was recognized as a finalist. Jenny loves all things French and is teaching herself to speak French in her free time. Since her surgery, she has also discovered a passion for cooking. She has her own collection of cookbooks she pulls out when she’s in the mood to bake. Her favorite thing to do is record music videos with her best friend Noah. Jenny’s favorite pop star is Nick Jonas and she’s pretty sure they’ll get married one day. Chances are, if Nick Jonas ever gets to meet Jenny, he’ll pop the question on the spot!
Looking at this 15 year old girl....all smiles and beautiful long red hair....you'd never know what she's been through. But she and her mother Berry will tell you in a heartbeat that USA Children's & Women's Hospital saved Jenny's life and they want everyone to know about it. They vividly describe how sick Jenny was....lying on the couch, unable to move because of the searing pain in her head...and how they were sent from the emergency room across the Bay in the middle of the night, after doctors found her tumor. Jenny tells people her head was kind of like an avocado, with a tumor as the pit. It’s hard to get that image out of my mind. Then to hear them tell of the surgeries for the tumor and blood clot, and how the doctors shaved only the parts of her head that they had to....so her mother could do "the most elaborate comb-over you've ever seen" and tie her long hair in a pigtail, to cover those spots until the hair grows back. Jenny brushes off the hard work she had to do, to re-learn how to walk and talk...and fusses that her hand is still a little shaky. Her surgery and her recovery are both miracles....and her smile and laughter are contagious.
Jenny was also a star at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital Day at the Jags game. Jenny accompanied several children onto the field for a half time presentation and along with our Hospital Administrator, Owen Bailey, Jenny accepted the check from a local car dealership to kick off our Radiothon for Kids. Jenny and her family not only interviewed for our Radiothon but helped us raise money while at Sam’s Club too.
There is no doubt Jenny would be an amazing ambassador for USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital as well as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. We look forward to having her participate in more events in the future.
Over the years, Children’s Miracle Network has contributed thousands and thousands of dollars for specialized equipment and program needs at our hospital. In recent years, Children’s Miracle Network funds helped purchase vital sign monitors that can remain at the patient’s bedside causing less disruption, comfortable sleep chairs that allow patient’s family members to stay in the room with them at night, and specialized wheel chairs designed in bright, fun colors to transport kids from one department to the next. All of this equipment along with much, much more assisted Jenny in her recovery and was a vital part of her treatment at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital.
For information on the Children's Miracle Network Radiothon visit: