Boy Turns Surgery into Opportunity

WHEELING – Jonah Henthorne, a fifth-grader at Steenrod Elementary School, never thought an ice-skating accident would be his lucky break.

Henthorne, son of Dan and Heather Henthorne, was ice skating in November when his skate hit a dip on the ice and he fell backward, hitting his head. Jonah said “everything went dark” and he could not move. A trip to Wheeling Hospital confirmed the accident had not caused too much damage, but to everyone’s surprise, a CAT scan revealed something much more serious was already present in Jonah’s brain.

A small, dark spot on the scan suggested Jonah might have an unruptured brain aneurysm that was present even before he hit his head on the ice.

After several MRIs, the Henthorne family made a trip to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where doctors confirmed the aneurysm and scheduled Jonah for brain surgery.

Jonah said receiving the news reminded him of past times when his legs would give out and he would fall – a symptom doctors said were seizures caused by the aneurysm.

“Soon as I heard the news I was so upset,” Jonah said. “My whole world fell apart. As soon as they said I would have to have brain surgery, I freaked out completely.”

According to the Columbia University Medical Center website, aneurysms form when the walls of a blood vessel weaken and balloon out. Pediatric brain aneurysms are very rare and have few symptoms until they rupture. The effects of a ruptured aneurysm can include weakness, eye movement problems, stupor, seizures and even coma or death.

Jonah underwent brain surgery to clip off the aneurysm in December. After only four days in the hospital, Jonah was home for Christmas and back in the classroom for the second semester. The only differences in his life post-surgery were the temporary inability to play sports and a long scar running from ear to ear on the top of his head, now covered by his hair.

Despite doctors’ warnings that the surgery might affect Jonah’s leg function because of the aneurysm’s location in the brain, he is still able to walk and run. According to Heather Henthorne, he will always have to be tested for new aneurysms and to make sure the titanium clips in his brain stay in place.

Grateful for the care Jonah received at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, his father was inspired to finally run a marathon in Jonah’s name after getting into running a few years ago and completing several 5K races. Dan Henthorne will be running in the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 5 under the “Team Jonah” banner with all money raised to be donated to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to support patient care, teaching and research.

The Henthornes’ goal was to raise $500 for the race, but the community’s response has been larger than expected and Team Jonah already has raised almost $2,000 for the hospital.

“(Dan) decided on his own that he wanted to do something with the hospital, because they were so good to us,” Heather Henthorne said.

“It’s rare. One in million children get aneurysms, so doctors who can give you information on it, there are not a lot out there. They made Jonah feel good about the whole thing.”

Jonah, along with the Steenrod Elementary Parent Teacher Association, has been selling paper running shoe cutouts featuring donors’ names to students, teachers and administrators to be posted along the hallway leading to Jonah’s classroom.

On Friday, the PTA hosted a “Support Your Favorite Team” day, where students wore jerseys, hats and other items featuring logos of their favorite teams in exchange for a donation to Team Jonah. In total, Steenrod Elementary raised more than $1,000 to support Team Jonah in the race.

“It’s my husband’s way and our family’s way of taking such a negative experience and turning it into something positive,” Heather Henthorne said. “Jonah’s gone through all of this, and he’s still such a well-adjusted, happy, caring kid. That is a miracle in itself.”

To donate to Team Jonah, visit