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Cross Country runner Olivia Thorn is a CMN success story

Children’s Miracle Network is highlighting teenager Olivia Thorn, who continues to keeps going and healing with each step she takes.
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 9:21 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - We’ve been sharing some amazing miracles with you this week. From babies born way too early and growing to thriving children because of innovative technology and expertise right here in Eastern Carolina and much of that growth is because of the Children’s Miracle Network.

One of those children is teenager Olivia Thorn, who continues to keeps going and healing with each step she takes.

She said, “I just like running, it’s like a release of emotions for me.”

Running cross country is a big part of Olivia Thorn’s life. She’s been running at the Oakwood School in Greenville since 6th grade and pushing through the pain. “I just really have to focus and push myself and tell myself, I can do it and I can usually run pretty fast if I can do that,” said Olivia.

Olivia is now a high school sophomore with a personal 5K best time of 23 minutes with each mile shaping her life. She’s someone who turns to nature to quiet the brain as her brain impacted the pain of running too.

Olivia said it wasn’t your ordinary kind of pain. “It was a whole different pain, that I can not even explain,” she said. Pain grounded this runner, who rarely ever had both feet on the ground at the same time saying, “I actually started throwing up, could not think straight, could not do anything normal like I usually could.”

Her normal quickly got turned upside down and changed her daily life. Her mother, Dr. Leanne Thorn said, “She didn’t go back to school for a month-and-a-half.”

The Thorns went from doctor to diagnosing and then more. Her mother said, “When the tech came to the waiting room and said it’s going to be a few more minutes, and we’re going to rescan her with the IV contrast, it drained the blood from your body because then you knew they saw something and it was probably bad.

Pictures of Olivia’s brain did show something was wrong. “You definitely could see that it was an abnormal mass in the brain and that it had blood and was very concerning, very large in the central part of the brain, very scary, I didn’t want to look at it,”

Olivia’s mom, Leanna, is a physician trained in emergency medicine and for the first time was afraid of medically knowing too much.

She said, “I’ve always been able to take care of my patients, and it’s very different when your patient is your daughter, not that she was my patient, but I didn’t want to have any medical knowledge almost.

Adding, “And I was scared too that it was so big that and in such a location that I didn’t think we’d be able to handle it here at Vidant.”

Vidant surgeons at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital could handle it, performing a craniotomy. Though the complexity of brain surgery didn’t sink in for Olivia until later.

Olivia said, “I was really worried about coming with half my head shaved, my whole head shaved.”

Her parents knew how serious the surgery was immediately but stayed strong, always keeping a brave face for Olivia.

Leanna said, “In the pre-op holding, when she’s getting undressed and you’re signing a consent form for craniotomy, it’s horrible... it was scary as a physician to have her go to the operating room and not be there with her.”

But there were many people with her spiritually and emotionally, this group began praying at the exact moment Olivia went into surgery. Then the group waited with the family while surgeons operated on a tangled mass of blood vessels causing Olivia’s intense headaches, nausea, and confusion.

“There had been bleeding and clotting, and bleeding and clotting, and that’s why her headaches were progressively worsening,” said Thorn.

It was a four-hour surgery that surgeons thought might go even longer because of the complexity of the location of the mass.

Olivia’s mom said, “The problem with this area is that it was near the speech center, so she could have had arm or leg paralyzation or speech – not being able to speak. So, when she was in recovery, we wanted her to talk.”

So, they waited, wanting to hear Olivia just say her own name. “When she finally told us her name, we were just so excited, so happy, no feeling like that before,” said Leanna.

She said, perhaps sounding better than even hearing mommy for the first time.

“Probably… I think it was better than hearing mommy for the first time because it meant success, at least a short-term success.”

The family thankful for short and now after two years, longer-term success. Surgeons confirmed they could perform this kind of brain surgery in her hometown, surrounded by a network of family, friends, and their medical team at Maynard Children’s Hospital.

“When they said that they could take care of Olivia here, it was such a relief to know that we didn’t have to go to Duke or Chapel Hill or a big medical hospital or even leave the state. We could in our backyard and take care of everything that needed to happen for her and had no complications, no issues. We were treated like family the whole time we were here,” said Leanna.

Olivia agrees that all the attention and special treatment helped her recovery. She said, “I think both the nurses and the surgeons are so nice and come and check on you so much, and really want to make sure that you’re Okay and doing well and always try to help you as much as they can, just really are super caring to you.”

The medical team was part of a larger support system that even includes people supporting from afar, people they don’t know and may never meet.

They are donors to the Children’s Miracle Network that supports programs, physicians, and technology at the Maynard Children’s hospital.

Leanna Thorn said, “Without the Children’s Miracle Network helping that hospital be what it is today, we would have had to go somewhere else which would have really been a struggle.” She added, “You’re out of your own city, you need to find a place to stay, you don’t know anybody local, where are you going to get your dinner, you know, all kinds of things.”

Instead of worrying about dinner, location, and lodging, they could focus on Olivia’s surgery and healing afterward.

“After my surgery, when I got home, I remember waking up for like the first time, almost in my whole life, feeling so amazing without a headache, and it was just amazing to me,” Olivia said.

Her welcome home was amazing also, with different student groups at The Oakwood School welcoming her back in an exciting video.

Olivia is now back running cross country, releasing those emotions, and healing. She is doing well in her recovery and thriving. For now, she has check-ups every six months.

Copyright 2020 WITN. All rights reserved.

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