One day, 6-year-old Keira Vidikan developed a minor headache just before heading off to her ballet class in Dayton, Ohio. Less than two weeks later, she was in a coma at the Cleveland Clinic, nearly paralyzed and unable to speak.
"I think this was the darkest night we will ever have," said her mother, Michelle Vidikan.
After scanning Keira's brain, emergency room doctors suspected a glioma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. As Vidikan and her husband, Mario, waited out the night at the local hospital, their daughter was slowly dying.
But in the morning, after six hours of tests, there was a ray of hope. An MRI showed the mass was more vascular in nature, and Keira was referred to the Cleveland Clinic for an evaluation.
Keira was diagnosed with cavernoma, a rare form of a family of conditions known as arteriovenous malformations or AVMs. A cluster of extra blood vessels had formed on her brain stem and had hemorrhaged. It was not cancer.
In December, Keira was a breath away from death, but today, she has returned to school thanks to prompt attention from her parents, both optometrists, and surgeons at Cleveland Clinic.
"She is back to running, dancing, jumping, and skipped her way out of the clinic today," Vidikan told ABCNews.com today after Keira's latest follow-up visit.
About 300,000 Americans suffer from AVMs, which are defects of the circulatory system that are generally believed to arise during embryonic or fetal development or soon after birth, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Although they can develop anywhere in the body, those in the brain or spinal cord can have devastating effects on the body.