Davidson: From Ohio to Boston for AVM surgery

Davidson, who had surgery to remove and AVM, poses on the lacrosse field with his sister
Davidson and his younger sister, Bella

Davidson Jump has always been a calm kid, according to his mother, Brett. So when the then 14-year-old suddenly went blind during English class in March of 2018, he didn’t panic. Instead, he asked a friend sitting nearby to walk him to the nurse’s office. He told the nurse he didn’t feel well and then had a grand mal seizure.

“When I got the call from the nurse, I was totally surprised,” says Brett. “He had always been healthy and active, and we have no history of seizures in our family.”

Brett and her husband, Ben, happened to be together when the call came in. They rushed to the school, and Brett joined Davidson for the ambulance ride to the children’s hospital about 45 minutes from their small town in Ohio.

Normal test results mean a trip back home

“Davidson seemed OK, but was disoriented, and didn’t know I was there,” says Brett. By the time they got to the hospital, he had come to a bit, and the doctors did a CT scan and an ECG and ran some blood tests. “We met with a neurologist and he said everything looked normal, so they sent us home with an appointment for an EEG in a few days.”

That night, Brett stayed up all night, watching Davidson as he slept. “At the time, we thought it was worst day of our lives. Little did we know what was coming.”

The EEG a few days later also showed no major concerns, so they set a follow-up appointment with a neurologist in May. Meanwhile, Davidson continued with all of his normal activities, including playing lacrosse all spring.

A new clue leads to a diagnosis

At the follow-up appointment, the neurologist asked Davidson more questions about the seizure. “At the time it happened, Davidson wasn’t able to remember the seizure, but over time, he started to recall more details,” says Brett. “He mentioned he was looking up and to the right before the seizure, and that was a clue to the neurologist, who was able to coordinate that information to a specific area of the brain.”

When the neurologist looked more closely at that area on the EEG, he saw an asymmetry and scheduled an MRI for a few week later. The MRI showed troubling news — Davidson had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the left temporal lobe of his brain. AVMs are a potentially life-threatening jumble of arteries that disrupt the normal flow of blood, and can cause seizures, headaches and stroke.

“He told us that Davidson would likely have to live a sedentary life, but we should meet with a neurosurgeon to learn about our options,” says Brett. “It was the first actual AVM he had seen in a patient.”

Seeking a second referral in Boston

A few days later, they met with a local neurosurgeon. He told them surgery was the best long-term option, but when the Jumps asked, he admitted he only performed about four to six of these surgeries a year. “It hit us the just how rare this was,” says Brett. “When we told him we’d like a second opinion, he referred us to Boston Children’s Hospital without hesitation.”

After a flurry of phone calls to “everyone we knew,” a friend referred them to Dr. Edward Smith, pediatric neurosurgeon and co-director of the Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center at Boston Children’s. “I called him that same day, and he called me back a few hours later,” says Ben. They were eating pizza with friends when Ben got the call. “We spoke for an hour and we had an instant rapport. Dr. Smith was so humble and gracious.”

“Once we found Dr. Smith, it was like part of our hearts were healed.”

Brett Jump, Davidson’s mom

Towards the end of the call, Brett remembers hearing Ben laugh and thinking it must be going well. “Then he came back in the room and announced we were going to Boston.”

They scheduled surgery for early July. “Our town gave Davidson a huge sendoff,” says Brett. “It was hard to leave our village and our families, but we knew we had made the right decision and everything would be OK. Once we found Dr. Smith, it was like part of our hearts were healed.”

Davidson was scheduled for two days of surgery. The first was with neurointerinventionalist Dr. Darren Orbach, co-director of the Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center, who performed an angiogram and partial embolization. The next day, Dr. Smith performed a craniotomy to remove the AVM.

‘A state of complete joy’

“When Davidson came out of the surgery, he looked up at me and said, ‘Hi, Momma.’ I just hit the floor,” says Brett. “Then he started joking with Dr. Smith. We were in a state of complete joy to see him so coherent that after two days of brain surgery and about 30 hours of sedation.”

Brett credits Davidson’s rapid recovery in part to the care he received from Dr. Sulpicio Soriano, the anesthesiologist in charge of his sedation for both surgeries. “He was so compassionate and kind, and even came to visit us after the surgery, just to check on Davidson,” says Brett.

Davidson, who had surgery for an AVM, stands on his lawn
Davidson with his welcome home signs

Four days later, Davidson was discharged from the hospital, and the family flew back to Ohio the next day. They were greeted by a yard filled with signs welcoming Davidson back home. “It was like everyone from the town had come out to leave a sign, it was really touching,” says Brett.

Back to school and lacrosse

Now 15, Davidson started high school in the fall and hasn’t missed a day since. Dr. Smith warned the family that the surgery would likely cause some vision deficits, and Davidson has also had some problems reading. While these issues are slowly improving, it means he has had to work a little harder to maintain his good grades.

Although he wasn’t able to play football in the fall, Davidson recently started lacrosse practice. “You’ve never seen a kid so happy,” says Brett. “The camaraderie on the team can’t compare to anything else.”

His parents say the experience has made Davidson more reflective about his life. “We know it’s going to inspire him to do something for others,” says Ben. “He’s already been contacted by some of his former teachers about speaking to their classes about overcoming adversity, and he’s excited to help however he can.”

Learn more about the Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center.