MARQUETTE- "We need a miracle." These were the words Tina and Tom Mayo heard from the doctor after he had taken their daughter into surgery for the third time. While many try and live day by day, the Mayo family was living hour by hour.
Tina said she sat in a waiting room thinking back to the night it all happened. Makayla, 18 and a recent graduate of Gwinn High School, had come home from the movies with a terrible headache. When her speech began to slur, her parents knew something wasn't right. She rushed to the Marquette General Hospital emergency room.
"That's the last thing I remember - getting in the car," Makayla said. "I also have a flash of someone putting an IV into my arm, but that's it."
Makayla Mayo is seen playing the board game Clue with her mother, Tina Mayo. Playing board games is helping with any memory problems Makayla may have experienced due to an aneurism. Makayla spent 60 days in the hospital, where she had to learn to walk again after suffering a grade four ruptured brain aneurism. (Journal photo by Abbey Hauswirth)
After a 3 1/2 minute seizure, a CT scan was administered. The results were not good. Makayla had a grade four ruptured brain aneurysm. Five being the highest on the scale. Makayla and her motherwere immediately flown to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, while Tom followed by car.
"When we arrived there were 15 people waiting for us and I was alone with Makayla. It was incredibly overwhelming," Tina said.
Makayla was taken directly into surgery, which lasted a few of hours.
"The surgery went great and even the ER doctor was amazed at how well she was doing," Tina said.
The family was warned, however, that a complication called "cerebral vasospasm" where the brain's artery walls react to the toxicity of the original bleeding and tighten up causing decreased blood flow to the brain, could occur within four to 14 days after surgery.
On day four, Makayla experienced the first of what would be four cerebral vasospasms. Each time, they occurred she was taken into surgery. During the procedure, a technique called "ballooning" was used to open the vessels that were clamped down in the brain.
The third attack was a game changer. The surgery, which on average took about two hours, lasted seven hours.
"The doctor came out at about 2 a.m. and he was pacing and holding his head," Tom said. "We knew it wasn't good."
The doctor told Tina and Tom that there was nothing more he could do.
"The doctor explained that each time he opened the vessels on the left side of her brain, by the time he opened the vessels on the right and came back around, the vessels were all clamped down again," Tom said. "He told us that if he operated too much and a vessel burst it would be game over."
The Mayo family was told to start praying. The future wasn't looking positive for Makayla.
Then, the Mayo's got the miracle they had been praying for.
Hundreds of people back home in Gwinn were holding fundraisers for the Mayo family and had set up a Facebook page titled "Miles for Makayla," as the Gwinn teen is an avid runner. Each time a person ran or walked a mile, they were encouraged to say a prayer for Makayla.
"On the day of the big Gwinn walk for Makayla we walked into her hospital room and where a few days prior she couldn't do anything, that day she was sitting up in bed watching TV," Tina recalled.
Her parents brought her an iPad so she could see photos of the walk, and Makayla was able to move her fingers and scan through the photos. Since then, more than 10,000 miles have been logged for Makayla from all over the country.
Over the next few weeks, Makayla had to relearn many skills that she had learned from infancy, including walking.
"Many of her doctor's colleagues couldn't believe someone with a grade four ruptured aneurism was walking," Tina said. "So her doctor actually brought some of his fellow physicians to her room and asked if she'd be willing to walk across the room for them. They were all shocked."
Makayla's recovery going forward could only be described as a miracle.
"People in the hospital were so inspired by her. When she went to physical therapy, some of the patients would say they didn't feel like doing their therapy, but then they would see Makayla determined to walk and they said, 'If Makayla can do it, I can too,' " Tina said.
For Makayla, the hardest thing was learning to walk again.
"It's really easy to take something as simple as walking or talking for granted, but to have to relearn it all was the hardest part for me," she said.
On Aug. 17, 60 days after they arrived at U of M, Makayla left the hospital with her family.
Tina posted on her Facebook page that day: "Watching my daughter walk out of the hospital on her own after 60 days! Can't even describe what I'm feeling right now!"
The Mayo family was surrounded by loved ones as they arrived into town and the cards have continued to pour in.
On Aug. 23, the Mayo family had a big surprise for the community who had rallied around them. It was the night of the "Meet the Modeltowners," an event that celebrates Gwinn student athletes. An RV was parked on the field and many wondered why it was there. Soon, that question was revealed. After someone knocked on the door of the RV, assisted by her family, Makayla walked out with a smile on her face. The crowd began screaming and applauding, not a dry eye could be found.
In closing, Makayla had a simple message to give: "Never, ever take anything for granted and to all who prayed for me and my family, thank you so much."