Christina Santhouse half brain screenshot Scientific American

An 8-year-old girl who had the right side of her brain removed in a life-saving surgery has grown up to earn a Master’s degree and become a speech pathologist.

Christina Santhouse was suffering from Rasmussen’s encephalitis — an extremely rare autoimmune disorder that caused 150 seizures every day.

With the condition worsening, doctors agreed the only way to save her life was to remove the right half of her brain.


As she was wheeled into the operating room, Christina was upbeat and excited about getting her life back after having experiencing so many seizures. Dr. Ben Carson — who would one day run for President — performed the surgery.

People who undergo the radical procedure — called a hemispherectomy — usually have very limited options for the rest of their lives. One of Christina’s teachers believed her job options would be limited to answering phones.

But as Christina grew up, she held on to her goals. Even though she lost motor skills on the left side of her body, the use of her left hand, and half her vision, she was determined to do everything her classmates were doing.

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Christina learned to walk with a brace, made the honor roll, captain of her high school bowling team, got her driver’s license, and went on to college and graduate school.

She received her Masters in speech pathology in 2010 — just five years after graduating high school.

On the 20th anniversary of the surgery that should have limited her life, Christina is living it to its fullest — buying her own home and just married in 2014. Her husband, Vince Paravecchia, says he didn’t even know about her condition until months after he met her.

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She says her work lets her give back to the world that “gave me so much.”

“If I could talk to myself as a seven-year-old,” Christina told Scientific American in 2014, “I think I would say, ‘You’re stronger than you know. You’re going to have difficult times, but you need to find the strength within yourself and when you can’t find that strength, look to the others around you.”

(WATCH the video from Scientific American below and READ more at the Philadelphia Inquirer) — Photo: Scientific American video

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