God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers.” That’s what they told me as I held my brother’s hand in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of Ochsner’s Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had heard that phrase so many times that I now found myself resenting it, because I, in fact, did not feel strong as I watched my world crumble around me.
In January of 2018, my little brother, Preston, a current Bass Memorial Academy (BMA) sophomore, was diagnosed with a grade 5 inoperable brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a couple of aneurysms, and a cyst so large it had pushed his brain off-center. In layman’s terms, it was a death sentence. The AVM, referred to as the “beast,” was too large to remove and allow Preston to survive. In the unlikely case he did survive, the entire left side of Preston’s body would be paralyzed, along with other deficits. He was 16.
Throughout Preston’s journey, my mother’s prayer was that the doctors would be done before they ever performed surgery or a procedure. Prayer is why my family is still whole today. Through divine intervention, the grade 5 inoperable AVM was shrunk to a grade 4 through multiple angiogram/embolization, giving Preston his first chance at life. Though the surgery necessary still had a significant fatality risk, Preston made the decision to fight for his life. After 10 hours under the knife, the entire right frontal lobe, which contained most of the AVM, of Preston’s brain was removed. By the grace of God, nine days after that surgery, Preston walked out of Ochsner’s Medical Center with zero deficits and a future.
I believe that God’s timing is perfect. Ever since my brother’s diagnosis, I have had a clear notion that I want to advocate, educate, and fundraise for AVM and aneurysm research, while helping other families like mine. That time is now. I will compete for the title of Miss Mississippi in June 2022 as Miss Greenville to promote my social impact initiative, Preston Strong.
I have partnered with and currently serve as an ambassador for The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation, as well as Mississippi Blood Services, to take my efforts with Preston Strong to the next level. Hosting an awareness walk has been a goal I have long wanted to accomplish, and it recently became a reality.
In my planning and preparation, I knew that the walk should take place at Bass Memorial Academy, as many from that community were there for my family during Preston’s journey. I am ecstatic to announce that the very first AVM & Aneurysm Awareness Walk for Preston Strong was a success, as our efforts raised more than $1,000 for The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation to fund research. The support received overwhelms me, and still, to this day, I find myself in awe of the great works our Savior has performed in Preston’s journey, one he still fights to this day.
I share Preston’s story because I believe it is a source of hope and inspiration. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but I choose to put my faith in Jesus and His perfect plan. Mark 11:24 is the verse that came to my mother and me at different times of need in Preston’s journey, and is now the backbone of Preston Strong: “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Gulf States | June 2022