Full of energy, spunk and smarts, Katie Verdecchia, 3, continues to amaze with each step she takes.
Just one year ago, the toddler from Vancouver underwent a special procedure to remove half of her brain to stop constant seizures and ultimately save her life.
"We have a lot to be thankful for," said Maryalicia Verdecchia, Katie's mother. "A year ago, we just didn't know."
The Verdecchia family spent last Thanksgiving week at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles where Dr. Gary Mathern, a renowned neurosurgeon, performed a rare surgery called a hemispherectomy.
Specialists said removing part of Katie's brain was their best shot at stopping the seizures which were affecting Katie's development. Since the surgery, she's been seizure free.
"We don't have to worry every second, is she going to have a seizure, is she going to fall down," said Brian Verdecchia, Katie's father.
Katie can now run and climb. She impresses her parents with daily progress.
"There are little strides which happen every day," said Brian Verdecchia.
"You appreciate everything," said Maryalicia Verdecchia. "You don't take anything for granted."
Katie, who's become a wiz on her iPad, continues to learn new skills and work with local physical, speech and communication therapists.
"She's not typical. She'll never be typical, but she is so much more of a toddler than she was a year ago," said Maryalicia Verdecchia. "She looks and laughs and engages us. That's a wonderful thing - we feel very, very lucky."
On this Thanksgiving, they're especially grateful for a seizure-free year, with no medication and hospital trips.
"Sometimes when you take a chance, a leap of faith, it can turn out well," said Maryalicia Verdecchia. "A year ago, we were desperate for anything that could save our daughter. Here we are a year later, and we are in a better place!"
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