Imagine being 17 years old, a high school student who has always been healthy and active. Then, at a routine eye exam the optometrist telling you “I think I see something behind your eyes.” The doctor tells you not to worry but refers you to a retina specialist anyway. The retina specialist also sees “something” behind your eyes and recommends that you get a brain “MRI” that very day.
Such was the position in which Lauren O’Prey found herself. The MRI revealed five brain tumors and numerous “bright spots,” indicating that she had a disorder called neurofibromatosis, type two. Two of the tumors were each the size of golf balls and were blocking her ventricles, causing hydrocephalus. They were removed surgically right away. Thankfully, the doctors felt comfortable just monitoring the remaining three brain tumors.
Lauren then finished high school and entered college at the University of Georgia. After a year there, one of the other tumors (called an acoustic neurofibroma) began to grow and cause concern. Sadly, when the doctors removed it, Lauren lost all ability to hear in her right ear. One of Lauren’s two remaining brain tumors is another acoustic neurofibroma, on her left ear’s nerve. It is stable and has been since 2006. If it grows and needs to be removed, she may lose hearing in that ear too.
As soon as Lauren and her family realized that there was a significant chance that deafness may be in her future, they took a proactive approach. To satisfy her foreign language requirements at UGA, Lauren took sign language. Her parents and sister also took conversational sign language classes near their home in Woodstock.
Lauren graduated from UGA in 2008 with a degree in education and teaches the fifth grade at David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens, GA. She teaches her students basic conversational sign language and had them sign “The Star Spangled Banner” at the school-wide assembly.
As recipients of emotional and financial support from BTFC, Lauren understands the importance of a foundation like BTFC. And in 2010 Lauren was one of three recepients of the Larry Dean Davis Scholarship which has helped financially in the pursuit of her graduate degree in early childhood education. To “pay it forward”, Lauren and her family have become annual participants and supporters of William’s Walk & Run in an effort to raise money and awareness.