It was on a typical Saturday afternoon when 13 year-old Tammy Converse,
daughter of Andy and Linda of Birnamwood, woke up, ate breakfast and got ready
to watch her favorite soap opera. But that’s when things started going wrong.
Tammy began to get the worst headache she has ever experienced. She had
flu-like symptoms—nausea, vomiting, chills and no appetite.
Although she was no better on Sunday, she refused to go to the doctor. Her
mother told Tammy that if she wasn’t any better by Monday, that she was going
to go to the doctor. When Tammy woke up that Monday, her neck hurt, so they
took her to the clinic.
Following her examine, the physician discovered that Tammy was experiencing
memory loss. Although she knew her name, she didn’t know her age and told the
doctor she was in the sixth grade, when actually she was in the eighth grade.
That’s when she was immediately referred to Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Pediatric
Intensivist, Dr. Todd Stewart, along with a team of specialists were waiting
upon Tammy’s arrival. Following a battery of tests, it was determined that
Tammy had a severe brain hemorrhage caused by an arteriovenous malformation
Dr. Christopher MacKay, Marshfield Clinic Neurosurgeon on staff at Saint
Joseph’s Hospital, placed a drain to help remove some of the blood on her
brain. Tammy required an external ventricular drain as she developed
hydrocephalus and she experienced significant aphasia as a result of the
hemorrhage. But Tammy was doing very well for a young lady who just suffered a
“The nurses were excellent with her and our entire family,” shares Linda.
“They helped us understand what we needed to do for her. The ICU nurses
deserve to be recognized for all they do and how good they are with the
patients. Our Child Life Specialist, Ann, was also a big part of Tammy’s
recovery. She explained everything and shared an incredible bond with Tammy.”
Tammy was also under the care of Marshfield Clinic’s Dr. Monica Koehn,
Pediatric Neurologist. Following tests, Dr. Koehn discovered that Tammy had
lost some strength on her right side and her upper right peripheral vision was
affected. “I remember the doctor’s next test very well,” recalls Linda. “Dr.
Koehn held up a flashlight and asked Tammy what it was. Tammy could not say,
‘flashlight’. We were learning what a miracle it was that we still had Tammy.”
The days that followed were full of occupational and speech therapy. Then
Tammy was given a spinal tap to confirm a meningital infection. The days were
rough, but Tammy began improving language-wise, but the meningitis was taking
a toll on her. Her kidneys were shutting down and she had a fever. Her neck
and throat were swelling and she was having a hard time swallowing.
But Tammy began to improve day by day and she was showing the world just how
tough she is. On November 20, the family got the news that Tammy could go
home! She has had to return for check-ups and on April 16, 2004, Tammy went
through the Gamma Knife procedure, a non-invasive procedure which would
cauterize the A.V.M. Saint Joseph's Hospital is only one of a few hospitals in
the world to have a Model C Gamma Knife, and it enables the Hospital to treat
patients with complex brain tumors and other neurologic conditions.
Tammy still has problems with her short-term memory, spelling and her vision,
but is doing very well. The family has had a lot of help in getting Tammy back
“We are thankful every day to the miracle worker’s at Saint Joseph’s Hospital
and Marshfield Clinic,” says Linda. “Without them, we would not have our
beautiful, intelligent, witty, wisecracking daughter to enjoy watching her
grow into a caring, beautiful and bright young woman!”
Copyright © 2011
Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital
All rights reserved. Children's Miracle Network
611 Saint Joseph Ave ~ Marshfield, WI 54449
715-387-9965 or 1-800-428-5000 (WI only)