Former tennis player gives team inspiration
Friday, 19 October 2012 by Jenna Magness
Casey Casilhas was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November 2011 immediately followed by brain surgery in December. Her recovery has been nothing short of a miracle.
At 16 years old, Casey is defying all the odds. Doctors were convinced that she would be paralyzed from the neck down after removing the tumors along with subsequent swelling of her brain during the procedure.
Following surgery, Casey was moved to a nursing home facility in Gladewater. She started to communicate with her family by wiggling her finger and toes and doing sign language. Doctors told Casey's father, Bobby Casilhas that Casey's vocal cords were also paralyzed.
"I came in Casey's room one day and she greeted me saying, 'I love you daddy.' It was like she woke up and could speak again. We had a follow up in Fort Worth, where she had the surgery, and she shocked everyone by talking to them," Casilhas said. "Our neurologist walked in the hospital room, she greeted him, and he stepped back. He kept telling us it was impossible."
Since then, Casey has been able to eat on her own again and the feeding tubes that she had were taken out two weeks ago. She is also breathing through her mouth and, to a certain extent, walking.
"Casey is doing physical therapy and they let her go in the pool where she could walk," Casilhas said. "She yelled at me saying, 'Daddy I'm walking!'"
However, Casey is limited in her left side and is experiencing vision problems. She gets tired easily and still finds balancing a challenge.
Throughout her ordeal, Casey has had a wonderful support system from her family and friends. One of the things she misses most is playing tennis. A tennis player since the age of five, Casey made the Belton High School varsity team her freshmen year before her surgery. She hadn't been to the courts in months and Casilhas found a way to get her reengaged.
"I knew there was going to be a tennis match so I decided to surprise Casey," Casilhas said. "I didn't tell her where we were going. When we got there, everyone had been waiting for us so the match hadn't even started. Coach Larson had called me earlier and said 'We need Casey here.'"
Casey was able to participate in the high fives at the end of the game with the other team and even gave one of her former teammates a pep talk. They won the game and Casey was the star.
A facebook page called "Helping Casey Casilhas" was started by Casey's family and has more than 28,000 supporters from around the world.
With all the progress Casey has made in the last nine months, her father has high hopes for the future.
"I see Casey walking, running, and even able to drive," Casilhas said. "And one day, being back on the courts. Casey has been stubborn since birth and her faith and willpower is what has made her come so far."