Story, Patient

A Life-Threatening Brain Infection Nearly Took Paige’s Life

November 9, 2020

Just 48 hours after Paige developed a high fever, she was undergoing brain surgery and fighting to survive. Read Paige’s story, a journey that continues nearly two years later with her diagnosis of epilepsy, and find out how Children's Colorado surgeons helped in her recovery.

Paige, Children’s Hospital Colorado Patient Ambassador

Paige’s mom, Alison, first became suspicious that her 8-year-old daughter Paige was sick when she fell asleep during the car ride home after an early Saturday afternoon basketball game. Over the weekend, Paige spiked a 104-degree fever, complained of a headache and neck pain. Alison became increasingly concerned, bringing Paige to the Urgent Care at Children’s Hospital Colorado’s North Campus location. Alarmed at Paige’s rapidly declining state, doctors sent her to Children’s Colorado in Aurora via ambulance.

“I’ll never forget – by the time we got there, Paige was not talking at all,” said Alison. “She would wake up, and she would just scream.”

Alison and her husband, Brian, watched in horror as their typically chatty and gregarious little girl struggled to remain conscious and lost the ability to speak. Something was terribly wrong.

After running more tests, doctors shared devastating news: Paige had developed a strep A sinus infection that had suddenly turned into a life-threatening form of bacterial meningitis. In less than a day, their precious daughter went from being a vivacious fourth grader to a child desperately fighting for her life.

The infection had invaded Paige’s brain, her blood and her spinal fluid. A CT-scan showed a large infected mass pushing against her brain. She needed emergency surgery to save her life.

The diagnosis was shocking. As Paige’s parents struggled to grasp what lay ahead, a Children’s Colorado receptionist named Belinda took them under her wing, a kindness they will never forget.

“She was like an angel, guiding us on this path,” said Brian. “Every interaction at Children’s Colorado was like that. We knew experts were caring for our daughter, but how many times did they also ask us, ‘What can we do for you?’”

Just a few hours later, Dr. Corbett Wilkinson, Paige’s neurosurgeon, removed a softball-sized infected mass from Paige’s brain and a large portion of her skull to allow room for her swelling brain.

After undergoing her operation and spending several weeks in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Paige was able to go home, but she continued to face many challenges. Paige has experienced ongoing infections and multiple seizures since that awful night in March of 2019. In October of that year, she was formally diagnosed with epilepsy. 

Paige was on antibiotics for more than a year, tried several anti-seizure medications – none of which worked to stop distressing seizure episodes – and required two additional brain surgeries to help her heal. Because her skull was so fragile after surgery, Paige had to wear a helmet – pink and personalized with stickers and her name – for months to protect her head.

Despite multiple brain surgeries, doctors worked hard to help Paige keep her long blonde hair intact, a seemingly small detail that had a big emotional impact on her recovery.

Thanks to the expert care she received – and faith and determination – Paige slowly began to bounce back after her harrowing ordeal. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was back to playing with friends, going to school and doing the activities she loves, including volleyball and basketball, where she is the best rebounder on her team, despite being the smallest.   

But even nearly two years later, Paige’s seizures – or wiggles, as she prefers to call them – are still a regular occurrence. She had three seizures on her 10th birthday alone.  Paige’s family continues to seek answers and treatment as they forge ahead with this often frightening and uncertain new normal. They say they are beyond grateful to have the expert team at Children’s Colorado by their side every step of the way.   

“Her fight is far from over, but we will never stop fighting,” said Brian, “Despite all that we have been through, we couldn’t ask for anything more from Children’s Colorado. Thank you is not enough to describe how we feel about the hospital and the people who work there. They are all true angels.”