Elementary school teacher receives life-saving neurosurgery

Veronique’s Story


Veronique Vachon and her partner Laurent Mazurek were driving home from a family get-together when Laurent looked over and saw Veronique convulsing.

Laurent instantly knew she was having a seizure. He didn’t waste a second — he rushed as fast as he could to the hospital.

At Vancouver General Hospital an MRI scan revealed that Veronique had two clusters of abnormal blood vessels called cavernomas in her brain. Cavernomas are small, raspberry shaped entanglements of blood vessels which can come and go for years without producing symptoms but can then suddenly hemorrhage, causing seizures, or even death.

Veronique needed complex neurosurgery to save her life — the kind of surgery that could only be undertaken by the specialized team at VGH.

Fighting through the worst, together

While Veronique was undergoing surgery, Laurent was also receiving his own life-saving treatment — chemotherapy for esophageal cancer.

“When Veronique got sick, I was in the middle of a six month course of chemotherapy,” says Laurent. “Compared to what she was going through my throat cancer seemed inconsequential and I knew I needed to be there for her.”

Thanks to world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Gary Redekop and his team’s investigation, Veronique’s diagnosis and subsequent surgery to remove the symptomatic cavernoma was successful. However, her long and difficult journey to recovery was still ahead.

Brain Disease and Injury

One in three Canadians will be impacted by traumatic brain injury, neurological disease or stroke in their lifetime.

Brain disease is expected to be the leading cause of death and disability by 2020 — killing more Canadians than heart disease and cancer.

Approximately 1.5 million Canadians are living with the effects of an acquired brain injury.

Rebuilding her brain at GF Strong Rehab Centre

When Veronique woke up after her surgery she looked around and thought, What am I doing here? What happened to me?

“Everything changed that day,” says Veronique. “I don’t remember those next few weeks at all. It was very slow. I had to re-learn how to eat, talk, walk — everything.

To get the help she needed to return to her former life as a school teacher, Veronique required the experts at GF Strong.

“We’re fortunate to have a great rehab hospital in GF Strong for patients to go there and interact and participate for several hours a day of fairly intensive therapy,” says Dr. Redekop.

Working diligently with the physiotherapists, nurses, doctors and speech therapists at GF Strong, Veronique went from learning foundational life skills like eating and walking to performing more complicated tasks, such as following recipes.

“It wasn’t just the physical rehabilitation I needed,” says Veronique. “It was also my mental strength I needed back as well. The staff at GF Strong are so incredibly supportive and have helped me get my body and mind on the right track.”

Today, almost a year since she came to VGH, Veronique is well on her way to returning to teach her third grade class and getting back to her former life.

The continuum of care

To ensure her health continues to improve and any future cavernoma growths don’t become a threat, Veronique requires a bi-annual MRI at VGH. To better help patients like Veronique, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is acquiring a new 3T MRI machine. This machine will help meet rising demand for diagnostic imaging and provide British Columbians increased access to the highest level of diagnostic accuracy, and improved patient outcomes.

“It’s priceless to be able to receive the care that you need when you get ill,” says Veronique.

“The level of care given by VGH was superb and surpassed my wildest hopes and expectations,” says Laurent. “I just want to tell the medical team that you gave her round the clock care, you were there for her, and you made sure she didn’t die. Thank you.