Lillington, N.C. elementary student Savannah Stocks was just 6 months old when she was successfully treated for an aneurysm at the University of North Carolina hospital. Both her life and her medical journey were just beginning. While there, Savannah's parents and doctors wondered what was causing redness around her mouth. Doctors thought it was a hemangioma and that it would disappear within 18 months. Her parents waited…but it didn't go away. Doctors decided to operate to remove the now protruding sore from her mouth. During surgery, they discovered it was an AVM, not a hemangioma as they had initially diagnosed. Without seeking her parents' permission, surgeons attempted to use a glue to dissolve it. It didn’t work. Eventually, they concocted their own embolization procedure to remove the AVM, which led to disastrous results.
"They burned a deep, penetrating hole right through her face and permanently scarred her face," says Savannah’s mother, Kristi Stocks of her daughter who was 2 years old at the time. "It took months for the hole to heal and it actually made the AVM worse, causing it to grow rapidly and protrude even more. We couldn’t go anywhere without people stopping us and asking us what was wrong with Savannah’s mouth."
Undeterred by the doctors' negligence, Kristi began searching the Internet, looking for the most experienced medical professional with a history of successful AVM treatment. Her search led her to Wayne Yakes, M.D. and the Swedish Medical Center's Vascular Malformation Center in Denver. By the time Savannah was about to turn 4 years of age, she had the first of many treatments with Dr. Yakes. The family traveled from North Carolina to Denver every few months for the first two years.
Today, Savannah is 7 years old and hasn't needed a treatment for the last two years. She did have another, small AVM appear in her nose, but Dr. Yakes’ pioneering ethyl alcohol embolization therapy successfully treated that AVM. Because AVM's are impacted by hormones, Savannah’s original AVM is expected to need further treatment as she enters her teens. But Kristi is confident there will be much less – if any – collateral damage.
"Dr. Yakes has definitely improved Savannah's quality of life and his treatments have never caused her additional complications," Kristi says. "Everything Dr. Yakes has done has only made things better."