Miracle baby survives with half a brain

Angelina Massingham, miracle baby!

Angelina Massingham, miracle baby

Little Angelina , the ‘miracle baby’ who survived with only half a brain

Little Angelina Massingham appears normal, and acts just like any other child her age. Yet at just 18 weeks old this little miracle baby was diagnosed with a condition called Sturge Weber syndrome, as reported in the Sunday Mirror, 7 November 2010. This is among the rare neurological disorders that damage the brain and causes tissue to calcify, among other neurological symptoms.

Her parents, Lisa and Stephen, were devastated when they were given the diagnosis of Sturge Weber syndrome, and were horrified that she was suffering dozens of seizures a day.

It seemed nothing could be done for little Angelina apart from medication to combat the neurological symptoms.

Cause of the neurological disorder

The cause of Sturge Weber syndrome is unknown, and although it’s present at birth it is not thought to be hereditary. Sturge Weber syndrome is often indicated by a birthmark on the face, and those with Sturge Weber often suffer from epilepsy, hemiplegia (a weakness or stiffness affecting one side of the body), glaucoma and learning difficulties.

In Angelina’s case, although medication controlled the fits at first, things got worse and they were told that surgery was the only hope.

“Brain scans showed just how quickly her brain was calcifying [hardening]” Lisa said. “We knew we had to take action.”


They were told that if the operation was a success, the seizures would be reduced by about 80%, but there was also a 2% chance that little Angelina wouldn’t survive the operation. It must have been a tough decision, but Angelina’s parents took the brave decision to allow the operation to go ahead.

Miracle baby Angelina underwent the operation in June, 2010, and it lasted seven long hours. Surgeons ‘switched off’ the right side of her brain by severing the connection with the left, and, as her mother said, “The operation sounded terrifying. It was as if the doctors were removing half her brain without actually taking it out of her skull.” The operation was a success and Angelina was allowed home after a few weeks.

Neurological symptoms

Since the operation, Angelina has not suffered a single seizure (one of the symptoms of Sturge Weber syndrome) and few of the neurological symptoms she formerly suffered, and she’s coming along fine. It’s known that she will always have a slight weakness on the left side, and she can’t use her left hand, but apart from that she should be able to lead a normal life. She’s a happy, healthy little girl, always smiling and giggling, and completely unaware of the amazing operation she underwent.

How amazing is the human brain that a complete hemisphere can be disconnected, and (if the person is young enough), the surviving half can compensate for it. And the degree that it can compensate is stunning – the work of whole regions of the brain can be taken over by other areas and dealt with quite competently.

Clearly there is a huge amount of spare capacity in the brain. So never underestimate your brain’s capacity – as long as you don’t try to work non-stop, you can quite comfortably keep learning and memorising and storing information from now till the end of time and you won’t run out of storage space!


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