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MJ teen makes miraculous recovery after ‘impossible’ brain surgery

Neurosurgeons at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. have successfully removed a deadly brain lesion from a 17-year-old Mt. Juliet teen, after he was told by multiple physicians that his malformation was too risky and impossible to completely and safely remove. 

Following complex brain surgery at Barrow in September, and after more than six weeks recovering in the hospital, Nathanael Price has made a remarkable recovery and recently returned home to Mount Juliet, TN, just in time for the holidays. 

Diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) at age 13, Price underwent eight brain procedures including two bouts of radiation over a four year period to shrink the lesion, but treatment was unsuccessful. 

A rare neurological disorder that causes abnormal tangles of arteries and veins in the brain, the vessels in an AVM weaken over time, making them prone to rupturing and bleeding. It wasn’t until Price arrived at Barrow that doctors learned his AVM was already causing small micro bleeds inside his brain. 

“All medical treatment options were nearly exhausted so we were absolutely thrilled when we heard there was a brain surgeon – Dr. Robert Spetzler in Arizona – who could successfully and safely remove the lesion,” says Chris Price, Nathanael’s father. “We found him at just the right time.”

Price was referred to Barrow after suffering two serious seizures while volunteering at a children’s camp in Colorado this summer. His family was told by a neurosurgeon in Colorado that Dr. Spetzler was the only brain surgeon who could attempt to remove the entire malformation from Price’s brain. Price underwent a 12 hour brain surgery in addition to five other procedures at Barrow to successfully remove the entire AVM. 

“Nathanael’s treatment was very complex given the size and location of the AVM, and I am delighted at how well he is recovering,” says Dr. Spetzler, who is the director of Barrow and one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons.

Following surgery, Price underwent weeks of intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy in Barrow’s Neuro Rehab Center under the care of Christina Kwasnica, MD.   

“Nathanael is doing remarkably well considering the type of malformation he had,” says Dr. Kwasnica, who is the medical director of Barrow’s Neuro Rehab Center. “He’s growing stronger every day and I expect him to make an excellent recovery.” 

While undergoing therapy at Barrow, Price received a great surprise when he was invited to meet one of his favorite country music bands, the Zac Brown Band, before a concert in Phoenix. The band reached out to Price upon learning of his successful recovery. Now at home, Price is looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with his family.

“I have a whole new meaning of Thanksgiving,” says Price. “I suffered with the AVM for a long time and was told repeatedly that the entire lesion could not be safely removed. After years of searching, I’m thankful to have found a surgeon who would save my life.” 

The story was written by Carmelle Malkovich at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

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