Science or Art?

Back in March my 14 year old daughter, Heather, suffered a stroke as a result of a ruptured cerebral AVM (ArterioVenous Malformation).  Today she met neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Nakaji for the first time since he did surgery to remove the resulting blood clot from her brain.

Heather and Dr. Nakaji

Today we also were given an amazing gift that was created by a team of people lead by Dr. Stephen Pophal, the Division Chief of Cardiology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The gift arrived with Dr. Ruth Bristol, the pediatric neurosurgeon who is in charge of Heather’s care.

Heather and Dr. Bristol

What exactly is this gift? It’s a life sized (or maybe just a tiny tad bit smaller) 3D model of Heather’s skull, the AVM and the blood clot that was removed. It was created from the CT scans that were taken when we first took Heather to the emergency room, showing the blood clot and the AVM.

3D Model of Heather's AVM and Blood Clot

The photo above has the front of the skull on the left hand side. The brown blob is the blood clot which is a little larger than a golf ball. The orange strands are the arteries. The blue strip around the inside of the skull is the main vein. You can just see the bottom of the AVM in green.

3D Model of Heather's AVM and Blood Clot

This is the blood clot closer up, angled from the front of the skull.

3D Model of Heather's AVM and Blood Clot

This photo (above) has the front of the skull on the right hand side. Now you can really see the AVM (the green thing). It’s about 5cm long. It bled from the side – when I first met Dr. Nakaji just before he did the surgery to remove the blood clot, he wasn’t absolutely sure how much the AVM was embedded in the blood blot.

3D Model of Heather's AVM and Blood Clot


  1. Absolutely amazing. Technology has certainly come a long way.

  2. Sandra Farnham

    Fascinating and scary so glad Heather is on the mend

  3. Wow! It’s amazing what medical technology can do! Heather, you are one amazing young lady.

  4. So glad they were able to remove the clot and hope Heather is improving each day!!

  5. Vicky Hommerding

    How great to have a model of what happened. And, thank you so much for sharing this information. We can learn so much from each other when we share items like this! Thanks again and continuing prayers for Heathers recovery.

  6. Sheila Lazarus

    That is amazing! Scary that you can have things like that going on inside you and have no clue about them. So glad she is doing so well. I pray for continued progress and healing for her.

  7. Rebecca Vaillancourt

    I love how you can visualize the clot in the 3D figure of her brain and where it was located. Looks very scary. I am so happy that Heather is getting better.

  8. Thank god everything worked out. Very cool technology

  9. LeAnne Osburne

    Hard to believe and understand. Best wishes for heather’s continued recovery.

  10. This must be of incredible value for a mother who is so tactile oriented!

  11. Deborah Melton

    So happy Heather is doing better and that she had such a great team of neurosurgeons ready to work on her. You make this complicated process so easy to understand. Also I think your sewing talent is complicated and you make it much easier to understand as well. So happy you share your work with us that love to sew.

  12. Dianne Onorato

    Wow, that’s incredible! Technology is a wonderful thing. Many hopes and prayers for Heather’s complete recovery.

  13. I’m an RN and I find the 3D model amazing! Heather and you are very fortunate. Heather looks (from the pictures) to be doing well. I’m sure this was a very scary ordeal for both of you. I have a sister who survived a very, very serious battle after 8 weeks in the ICU. The Medical Field can do amazing things these days. God bless you both.

  14. Jeanne Perrone

    Sara and Heather,
    It sounds like Heather is making great progress with some improvements every day.
    I am sure that all three of you are looking forward to getting settled in the new house in a few months.

  15. Good luck to you all, you have turned the corner and things should be OK now

  16. Kathy Goodnight

    Praise God she is doing so well. Thank you for sharing, it’s fascinating
    And scary at the same time. It’s truly amazing what our Doctors can do.. I pray she continues to recover from this. She is such a pretty little girl, you are blessed to have her.

  17. Amazing. At 14 going through a stroke. She’s got to be the most precious child. God has given such wonderful gifts to these intelligent doctors and the gift of life to Heather. What a truly amazing, tough child you’ve been given.

  18. Christina Wilke

    That clot was huge is it any wonder she was so ill, thank God for such skilled surgeons. I hope you are all on the mend now.

  19. This is amazing information on the blood clot on Heather’s brain.
    Just wonderful that Dr’s are able to do this fine skilled surgery.
    Sending love and prayers to all of you and may god protect and help Heather through this.

  20. Nothing short of miraculous! What a wonderful day and age we live in that mortals can remove a blood clot from the brain of a child and embroider with the touch of the right buttons anything that can be imagined!

  21. Love those smiles on your faces! Is technology not amazing? The strides made over even the last few years are saving lives on an hourly basis. My darling husband’s stroke was similar, but in his pons. I thank the doctors that were able to save him and the therapists that brought back most of the old man! Heather looks to be working hard on recovery from evidence in your photos. Don’t forget to keep up your strength also and take time to recharge. And keep smiling!!!!

  22. This is a perfect example of God’s gifts through the mind and hands of an exquisitely skilled and well-trained surgeon combined with God’s protective blessing for a resilient and beautiful Heather.

  23. This is spectacular. For those of us who have been following Heather’s progress, it is great to get a view of what happened and how far our technology has come to help in the medical field. Best to you and your family.

  24. Seeing Heather’s incredible smile after what’s she’s gone through is so heart warming. Heather, you are a warrior.

  25. Wow- Very interesting. Did they remove the blob part??

  26. Wow, this is amazing! She’s a beautiful girl. God’s hand guided the surgeon. She is blessed!

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