While most of the members of the Madisonville High School senior class were doing normal teenager things like picking out prom dresses and making plans for college last month, Bailey Gist was being airlifted to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, suffering from a massive brain bleed.
On May 3, Bailey had a bad headache and was dehydrated from being unable to keep any food or water down. A counselor drove her home from school and following a CT scan, it was clear she would need surgery.
The teenager underwent a crainiotomy – the surgical removal of part of the skull so that a tube can be inserted in order to drain the blood. It drained for three days.
Bailey didn’t complain, even though she was slightly annoyed that the hair she’d been growing out for years had to be shaved. She was too drugged to feel much of anything, she said.
“I had so much medicine. I was so out of it,” she said. “The bleed was seven days old. My brain actually shifted in my head. I’ve been very lucky because if it had been on the other side, it would have affected my motor skills.”
Bailey is no stranger to hospitals. She had six open-heart surgeries and two confirmed strokes by the time she was in eighth grade. She believes that a blood thinner she takes for her heart may have been the cause of her most recent medical complications. Her doctors have since changed the medications and dosages.
“It kind of made me more positive,” Bailey said. “It was like, hey, you have a second chance.”
Although she feels healthy now – “everything works fine,” she says – the timing couldn’t have been worse.
She was released from the hospital the day before prom at her insistence.
“I was like, ‘we’ve got to get this moving,’” she told medical personnel. “I didn’t really give them a choice.”
But she wasn’t able to drive, wear high heels or lift her 3-year-old brother. She still can’t shampoo the right side of her head and is concerned about sleeping on that side.
She missed “Burger Day,” at which all the MHS seniors take a class picture. This year they took the photo in the shape of a B in her honor. They also held two “hat days” where students can pay a dollar to wear a hat to school, and the money goes toward medical research.
Hats are a bit of a sore subject for Bailey, who wore a scarf and a beanie to her senior prom.
“It was so hot,” she said.
Now she’s rocking the shaved look, and while her criss-crossed stitches are visible on the right side of her head, her radiant smile steals the show.
The oldest of Dustin and Jackie Gist’s three children turned 19 on Saturday and was able to accept her high school diploma at Sam Houston State University. She’ll attend Tyler Junior College in the fall to study elementary education. She expects she’ll be getting a lot of visits from her parents and siblings.
“Keep your friends and family close,” she said. “Out of everything that’s happened in the past month, a lot of good has come out of it.”