Video: Nine-year-old has rare brain condition

BOTHELL, Wash. - A local child with a rare condition suffered her first stroke at age 9.

Just a few doctors nationwide perform the surgery that offered her hope.

Nine-year-old Angela lives with her grandparents, who have nurtured her through special education classes.

Her grandmother says a roller coaster ride during a family vacation led to the discovery of a rare brain condition that threatened Angela's life.

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"The following morning she went into some seizure type things, where she was unable to stop twitching so badly that she couldn't keep herself on a table, on the table at the hospital," Angela's grandmother Carol Thompson said.

As symptoms puzzled doctors for months, Angela was losing precious ground in school.

"We knew that there was something wrong, because her speech went backward by about two years," Carol Thompson said. "Her math was horrible."

With more testing doctors finally diagnosed a rare disease called MoyaMoya.

It closes off the main artery that should carry oxygen to the brain. Angela had suffered a mini stroke on vacation.

She would have faced more devastating strokes if not for a delicate brain surgery performed at Seattle Children's.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Richard Ellenbogen is one of the few doctors nationwide who performs the surgery.

"What we're doing right now is taking a vessel called the superficial temporal artery, which is an artery in the scalp, freeing it up, and then suturing it into the brain," Ellenbogen said.

The repositioned arteries will over time bring blood flow and oxygen where her brain can use them.

"I think she can have a long healthy life," Ellenbogen said. "Because what happens then is these arteries start feeding the brain."

Now Angela is home again. Carol Thompson says she's already seeing remarkable strides in her grandchild.

"She got her fine motor skills back," Carol said. "She's able to tie her shoes and do a zipper, and do buttons."

Study comes easier now too.

Angela's doctor says as her blood flow improves over the next few years she'll see even more benefits to her learning.

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