LOS ANGELES (KABC) — When a doctor asked a 6 year old Brianna Bodley When she asked San Bernardino about her headache, she tried not to move as she answered.
“Tell him where your head hurts,” the girl’s mother said as she gently held her hand.
The stitches are still fresh after pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Aaron Robison of Loma Linda University Health spent ten hours carefully cutting off half of Brianna’s brain.
“After the surgery, the entire left side of her body shut down,” said the girl’s mother, Crystal Bodley.
Last year, Brianna was diagnosed with Rasmussen encephalitis, a rare, chronic inflammatory disease that affects about 500 children in the United States each year. A lively young girl who once enjoyed singing, dancing and reading suffered daily debilitating seizures that eventually led to learning difficulties and paralysis.
“Her leg was constantly bent up and she had difficulty walking,” Bodley said.
Robison said the seizures and inflammation damaged one side of Brianna’s brain and actually caused the brain to shrink. We first met Brianna in January when she was being treated with anti-seizure medication and steroids, but the disease continued to progress.
“She would talk to me sometimes and say she was scared, but I would tell her, ‘I know it’s scary, but you’ll be okay,'” said her sister, Torie Bodley.
Robison said Brianna’s best option was to turn off half of her brain.
“Just disconnecting is enough to completely and essentially stop the disease and potentially cure it,” he said.
Previously, doctors removed half of the brain, but this led to more complications.
Now you can simply turn off the non-functioning part of the brain. Robison said an elegant way to do this is to use the brain’s natural opening, called the Sylvian fissure.
“This allows us to separate the white matter from the thalamus here,” he said.
The left side of Brianna’s brain is working hard, taking over what the right side used to do. But the doctors said that even with half a brain, you can still live a whole life.
“Brianna will still be the same person even after she turns off half her brain,” Robison said.
Brianna may be losing some peripheral vision and fine motor skills in her left hand, but with various types of physical therapy, doctors expect her to get back to her old self and live seizure-free.
“I just want to see her little Brianna running around, doing her art and having the fun she always had,” said her grandmother, Chris Breheim.