Meet Mackenzie, the Jokester (Videos) Mackenzie overcomes the odds after surgery to remove a brain tumor

Dr. Hudgins and Mackenzie during a recent check-up.

Dr. Hudgins and Mackenzie during a check-up.

Our TV campaign this year focuses on the lives of five kids who invited us to walk with them on the other side of “better.”  Here’s the story of 10-year-old Mackenzie Roach.

In April 2011, 7-year-old Mackenzie started to hear a loud beeping in her ear. After several tests, Dr. Roger Hudgins, an Akron Children’s Hospital neurosurgeon, discovered that Mackenzie had a brain tumor referred to as a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma.

Once Dr. Hudgins removed the benign tumor, the hard work began.

The surgery was a success. But soon after, Mackenzie developed posterior fossa syndrome, a condition that can occur after brainstem surgery.

Doctors don’t know what causes it, but it’s most common in children with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Mackenzie suffered from the latter, causing her to lose the ability to walk, talk or even open her eyes or sit up.

Throughout the following months, Mackenzie had to relearn every function as if she was a newborn. Working with a team of caregivers in Akron Children’s Hospital’s rehabilitation department – which included physical and occupational therapists and speech pathologists – she began to regain her skills.

She underwent inpatient rehab for almost two months and completed three months of outpatient rehab. She progressed from using a wheelchair to a walker to walking on her own.

Now, about a year later, she’s dancing, running, playing and riding bikes again. She even performed in Canton Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker” last winter.

mackenzie-and-hudginsIn addition to continuing outpatient rehab, Mackenzie also checks in regularly with Dr. Hudgins. “Working through therapy, she’s made a tremendous recovery,” Dr. Hudgins said. “She never gave up.”

He also adds that she never lost her sense of humor – even if it was at his expense. (When you see Mackenzie making air quotes in the spot below, she’s teasing Dr. Hudgins about his “work trip” to Hawaii.)

She loves telling jokes and playing pranks, even making people laugh when she couldn’t talk.

But telling jokes has more benefits than a good belly laugh. By telling Dr. Hudgins a new joke when they see each other, it helps Mackenzie keep her memory sharp and her brain activated. They also say hello to each other in several different languages.

Just for laughs, here’s a joke Mackenzie shared with us during filming.

Q: What kind of teacher doesn’t pass gas in public?

A: A private tutor!

Listen to Mackenzie’s Radio Spot


Watch the 4 TV spots featuring Mackenzie below.

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