Positive spin: Resilient teen surpasses expectations in brain surgery, stroke recovery

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, August 10, 2013

Share this page...

When Shannan White has a goal, she doesn’t stop until it’s accomplished.

A stroke during brain surgery to remove a marble-size tumor last month left the Bridgeport Middle School eighth grader’s body paralyzed on the left side.

Doctors told the Balsora resident she’d be in intense in-patient therapy for three months to regain that strength.

“And I said, ‘Forget three months! I’m going home sooner!'” Shannan recalled.

Surrounded by Love

SURROUNDED BY LOVE – During a six-week hospital stay recovering from brain surgery, as well as a stroke sustained during the procedure, family and friends showered 13-year-old Shannan White with tokens of love that included numerous stuffed animals and a basketball, symbolic of the Bridgeport Middle School student’s favorite pasttime. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Immediately, she showed great strides, moving – even if slightly – the affected leg and arm within days of starting therapy July 22.

“She did so good and started progressing so they set a (discharge) date of Aug. 14, which was three-and-a-half weeks away,” her mother, Robin, said. “Shannan said, ‘I’m going to do it in two weeks.’ And she did it …

“If she has a goal, that’s what she does.”

On Wednesday, Shannan was released to go home after a six-week hospital stay that was projected to last much longer. Although the resilient young athlete and loving sister has made considerable progress, Shannan and her family acknowledge there’s much more to be done.

“She’s still not where she needs to be,” Robin said. “She still has a long road ahead of her, but it’s been a long road the last six weeks and, somehow, we’ve made it. Somehow, we’ll continue to make it.”


Shannan was a perfectly abled young teen. She had played basketball since she was in kindergarten and was also involved in volleyball, cross country and track.

“She was healthy, athletic, an A/B student in school,” Robin said. “She didn’t show any symptoms.”

On Monday, June 24, Shannan woke up with a headache. Before leaving for work, Robin gave her daughter some Tylenol and told her to go back to bed and call her when she woke up.

“She did, and she seemed OK,” Robin recalled. “I left work early that day, and she was fine. So I took her to camp at Grace Fellowship Church and dropped her off, and the plan was that she would spend the night at a friend’s house.”

Shannan texted her mom around 8:30 that evening asking her to pick her up, so Robin went and got her daughter.

“She still seemed OK,” Robin said. “She came home and was playing with her sister. They were watching TV in the living room and fell asleep.”

Shannan’s dad, James, got up for work at 3 a.m., and as he headed out the door, he heard a noise. He turned on the light and saw his 13-year-old daughter on the couch having a seizure.

The family called an ambulance, and medics later determined she’d been seizing for about a minute.

“After the ambulance got there, she was able to tell them her name,” Robin said. “She even stood up and climbed on the gurney. But she wasn’t quite herself.”

Shannan was transported to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, where she had a CT scan and blood work. Those came back normal, but MRIs that were performed later showed a marble-sized tumor on her brain.

Furthermore, EEGs indicated that as Shannan starts to fall asleep, she has small seizures.

“Doctors believe she’s always done that,” Robin said. “But they’re so small you don’t notice them.”

By that night, the family knew Shannan had a tumor that had to be removed surgically.

That procedure was scheduled for the following Tuesday, July 2.

“We showed up at 5:30 for surgery, and that’s when we started running into more trouble,” Robin said.

Great Strides

GREAT STRIDES – The staff at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth presented Shannan White with a signed pillowcase when the Balsora resident was discharged from the hospital much sooner than anticipated. Messenger photo by Joe Duty


Brain surgery appeared to be going well.

“We spoke with the doctor at about 3 o’ clock, and he said everything was fine,” Robin said. “The tumor was benign. They were closing her up, and they told us we could wait for her in ICU.”

An hour-and-a-half passed, and the family still had not seen her. Staff couldn’t tell them where she was.

“Finally we were told she was still in the OR (operating room),” Robin said. “They were having trouble getting her to wake up and off the breathing machine … Scans showed she had had a stroke, and it had affected her left side.”

As a result, Shannan went back into the OR for surgery to address bleeding on the brain.

“Fortunately, that went well, and when they brought her back to (consciousness), she was able to come off the breathing machine,” Robin said.

She then spent four days in the ICU before moving to rehab at Cook’s.

“There they worked with her like crazy to get her to where she is,” Robin said.

Now, two weeks later, Shannan can slightly raise the affected arm.

“It’s a T-rex arm,” she said with a laugh.

She can also move her leg but not her toes or ankle. She has a brace on her left leg and as long as she has that, the help of a quad cane and the assistance of another person, she can walk.

“I always have my cane,” the upbeat teen said. “It’s my other half.”

It’s also her defense mechanism.

“I’ll cane you,” she playfully threatened her teasing sisters – Brett, 17, and Bailey, 9.

The progress, and the young teen’s cheery attitude and good spirits, are commendable.

“We’re very lucky that she’s come this far this quickly,” Robin said. “She really surprised everybody. But she has a long way to go to get back to her normal self … There will be a lot of adjustments and changes.”


Shannan has to follow the two-foot rule, which means no running, no jumping, nothing that would cause her to hit her head.

She’ll get to start school with everybody else but will be very limited.

“She has not lost anything she learned before, but learning new things will be harder because it will be harder for her to focus,” Robin said. “She’ll need more time to process everything. Instead of taking notes during class, she’ll have to have the notes already written so she can pay attention to the teacher.”

Shannan may also be restricted to half-days of school.

“It just depends on what we can work out with the school and her therapy,” Robin said.

Shannan is slated to begin physical, speech and occupational therapy in Denton next month. The frequency and intensity of the therapy is contingent on an evaluation to be performed then.

“Regardless, doctors told us it will be about a year of hard, hard work to get to where she needs to be,” Robin said. “It’ll take about a year before she’s back to herself.”

Of course, Robin refers to the physical limitations. Her daughter’s positive attitude and optimism have not been rocked.

“She has a strong faith in God, which has played a big role in her recovery,” Robin said. “Not once has she cried; not once has she asked, ‘Why me?’ She does not feel bad about it. She is confident that it’ll all come back. She never asked, ‘What’s going on?’ She just knew she couldn’t move her left side, and she knew she had to work hard to get the feeling and movement back.”

“What else can I do about it?” Shannan asked. “God has a plan. Somewhere around here, something good is going to come out of this.”

In the meantime, the courageous teen will focus on her next goal – suiting up and playing basketball for the Bridgeport Sissies next year as a freshman.


benefiting Shannan White
Saturday, Aug. 17
at Lawdwin Ballfields
Call 940-613-9921 to register
There will be auctions, raffles, a concession stand and T-shirts for sale.

Leave a Reply. Note: As of March 24, 2011, all posted comments will include the users full name. News and Blog Comment Guidelines

You must be logged in to post a comment.