Nine-year-old Elsa is a lively girl from a small town just outside Anderson, Indiana. She loves spending time with her large family—which includes her mom Maribel, and sisters Emma and Naomi. Their home is a symphony of music, color, and laughter. When she’s not in school, Elsa spends her time learning new dances, swinging from a big tree in the backyard, playing with her dog Sweetie, and making TikTok videos with her sisters and her friends.
When Elsa was seven, she got sick with flu-like symptoms; rather than resolving on its own, her condition worsened. Maribel also noticed that Elsa was no longer moving the left side of her body. At the Ascension St. Vincent ER in Anderson, a scan revealed bleeding in Elsa’s brain—a thalamic hemorrhage.
Elsa was airlifted to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in critical condition and rushed to the OR. Dr. Jodi Smith, a Goodman Campbell pediatric neurosurgeon, performed a craniectomy to stop the bleeding and relieve pressure on her brain.
When she woke from surgery, Elsa’s overall condition had improved, and she was able to respond to directions to move her right arm and leg. But she was still largely paralyzed on her left side.
Two days after her first surgery, a scan revealed the cause of the hemorrhage: a tumor involving the medial temporal lobe and the thalamus on the right side of Elsa’s brain.
Four days later, once she had recovered enough for a second surgery, Dr. Smith performed a surgical resection—dissecting and removing the tumor—and replaced the portion of the cranium removed during the first surgery.
Small amounts of the tumor were left unremoved so that Elsa could continue to walk…and dance.
“Dr. Smith is very nice, and very cool,” Elsa said. “We watch TikToks together when I see her.”
Elsa is receiving chemo to reduce what’s left of her tumor, and occupational and physical therapy to help with her recovery. She sees Dr. Smith regularly to check on her recovery. “The last time I saw her, I wanted to give her a hug,” Elsa said. “But I couldn’t because of the virus. So we just bumped feet.”
“Elsa is brave, and she’s a fighter,” said Maribel. “She wants to go back to dance classes as soon as she can. I’m sure it won’t be long.”