Monday, 20 February 2012 by Matthew Girard
Since Casey Casilhas was five years old, the soon-to-be 16-year-old has had a passion for tennis.
Just a sophomore, Casey was already a member of the Belton High School Girls Varsity tennis team, but her life changed forever in November 2011.
Around Thanksgiving break, Casey began experiencing headaches. The headaches soon intensified, causing Casey to become nauseated and bedridden. She was soon experiencing double vision along with the debilitating headaches.
On Nov. 27, Casey's mother, Darlene, took her to the Scott & White Emergency Room. While at the hospital, doctors performed a Computed Tomography Scan (or CT Scan) which revealed a brain tumor.
After the diagnosis, the Casilhas' were referred to Cook Children's Medical Center in Forth Worth.
The Casilhas met with doctors on Dec. 9 and Casey was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor on Dec. 12.
After a six-hour surgery, doctors removed a tumor roughly the size of two golf balls that had been located close to Casey's brain stem.
Although doctors were confident they had removed all of the tumor, the Casilhas family received a phone call at 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 13 to return to the hospital.
Casey's brain began to swell and she was rushed into surgery.
During a four-hour surgery, doctors attempted to decompress her brain. The swelling blocked blood circulation to Casey's brain and caused damage to the areas where the tumor had been. The surgeon was concerned that she had suffered a stroke.
Casey's family was then told that she might be ultimately paralyzed from the neck down.
Despite the swelling, later tests showed no signs of a stroke, but did show damage to the brain stem.
Just three months later, Casey is making miraculous strides in her recovery.
"Everything she is doing is almost considered miracles, because they were things that were not supposed to happen, and it's happened very quickly," said Casey's father Bobby Casilhas. "She started slowly with movement on her right side. She's to the point now where she can move her right and she can do some sign language. She can also pull her knee up on her right side.
"On the left side, there is very little movement, but it's starting. Her fingers and toes are moving."
Bobby, who is the branch manager at Rexell Electrical Supply in Temple, said doctors had to remove the part of brain that controls movement after the swelling, but because of her young age, her brain can re-learn the neurological connections.
"I think that all the people out there praying for her is helping her," Bobby said.
And Casey is hearing all of those prayers.
Since Casey went to the hospital, her family started a Facebook page and have more than 1,100 likes with people from all over writing to the family and Casey herself.
"The support has been incredible," Bobby said. "Becky (Casilhas, aunt) has been leading it up and through the Facebook page, we have received a lot of support.
"We take every message that's written on there and every prayer that's written on there to her and read her the messages."
Darlene said she is grateful for all of the support her daughter has received.
"It's great to have all of her friends, aunts and everybody giving the support that they have," she said.
With the help of family and friends, the Casilhas' are organizing various fundraisers to help with Casey's medical expenses, beginning with a bake sale at the DBMA Market days on Feb. 18. The group's theme is "Casey Can, Casey Will."
"We are going to have a bake sale, some arts and craft, buttons T-shirts and bracelets," Bobby said. "We have insurance, but it adds up quick. The insurance covers one MRI per year and she has already had five at $3,000 a piece and she's been through five or six surgeries now."
For more information about Casey's story, search "Helping Casey Casilhas" at Facebook.com.