Tori Edsel

Tori Edsel was going about her morning routine of washing her hair when her right hand went numb. Soon after, the 16 year old lost her ability to speak, and one of her legs became paralyzed. What appeared as a stroke to her parents, Mike and Cindy, caused them to rush her to the hospital.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse. The doctor’s didn’t think she’d make it through the morning.

Tori was diagnosed with Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), a tangled mass of abnormally formed blood vessels. They can occur anywhere in the body but are most commonly found in the brain.

“I also had an aneurysm associated with it and I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke as a result of my AVM rupture,” she says. “I was paralyzed on my right side and couldn’t speak for three months. Lucky for me, I’m left-handed.”

AVM is extremely rare and impacts less than 1 percent of the population. It’s associated with a high risk of brain bleeds, permanent disability, and even death.

It takes a very special person to bring people together through a message of hope, especially in hard times, but Tori has shown the local community and beyond what it means to be brave against all odds. Her strength and spirit not only led her to a better recovery than the doctor’s imagined, but even allowed her to dance on stage again.

She returned to Dancers Edge, her home away from home over the years, to perform a dance with her dad in a recital last May.

“My doctor wasn’t sure if I would even walk again before my second surgery, so I felt like Cinderella living my dream to be back on the stage. I was so emotional, I cried,” Tori says. “No one knew that I was going to dance and a video played before my dad and I went on stage that told my story. The background song was ‘Fight Song’; this was the song that played before my second brain surgery to fix the AVM and clip the aneurysm.”

Currently, her deficits include right-sided peripheral blindness; she can’t see past the midline. She can’t use her hand or wrist functionally, and her shoulder and elbow are very limited. Her hip and knee are still very weak and she can’t control her ankle or toes.

“I wear an AFO (ankle foot orthosis) in my shoe to hold my ankle still. My mom is working on trying to get a device for my ankle and one for my hand,” she says. “They’re expensive and we are trying to think of fundraising ideas to help with the fees.”

The experience has brought Tori a perspective most people will never understand. She shares with others dealing with medical issues and disease “to always have hope and faith.”

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