Oklahoma City girl battles rare illness that claimed her brother

BY VALLERY BROWN vbrown@opubco.com Modified: October 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm •  Published: October 21, 2012

As she giggles and does cartwheels across the floor of her Oklahoma City home, it's nearly impossible to see little Abria Glenn's scars.

One is on her arm. Another runs along the scalp near the right side of her forehead.

The other scars aren't visible. About a year and a half ago, Abria's older brother, Gregory Dwayne, died of complications from the condition she's now battling.

Like any 6-year-old, Abria is full of curiosity and spunk. She talks about losing her front teeth (to the “tooth fairy-ologist”), her favorite color (pink) and her trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

The trip is one her brother always wanted to take.

“It's me,” Abria says, showing off a self-portrait on construction paper. The painted girl, composed as perfectly as a first-grader can do with an explosion of colors, wears a princess tiara.

Abria had a lesion removed from the right frontal lobe of her brain in July, just weeks before starting first grade at Stanley Hupfeld Academy. The discovery of the growth was devastating for family members, who had hoped the lesions would never spread to her brain as they had with Abria's brother.

“We'd already lost one child,” said Gregory Glenn, Abria's father. “We were going to do everything we could to save her. As a parent, it's something you don't want to think of ... it's not right ... parents shouldn't have to bury a child.”

Abria has a condition where tumors form on the body and brain. They can grow quickly and have debilitating symptoms. While the family copes with the loss of one child, they're constantly keeping an eye on Abria for symptoms she might have a lesion growing somewhere they can't see.

Lessons, memories

Just around the corner from the living room where Abria plays is Gregory Dwayne's bedroom. Full of sporting equipment and pictures from baseball and basketball leagues, the bedroom has become a remembering and mourning space.

He was 10 when he died in April 2011 after the removal of a cavernous malformation from his brainstem.

With cavernous malformations, clusters of abnormal, tiny blood vessels and larger blood vessels fill with blood. They can continue to swell and even leak and, depending on their location, cause no symptoms or result in memory loss, seizures and other neurological problems if they are near the brain or spinal column.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates one in 100 to 200 people have cavernous malformations. Some 30 percent or fewer will ever develop symptoms.

The family takes comfort in Gregory Dwayne's memory and in the fact they were able to donate his organs.

As much as they can, the family tries to maintain normalcy. Anbria Glenn works in administration at the Civic Center. Gregory Glenn, a retired pipe fitter, referees basketball and keeps busy with the sports his son loved.

Continue reading this story on the...