HASLET, Texas (AP) — Kaitlynn Curtner was 12 when she went to a school counselor's office in Round Rock with a headache on Sept 2, 2011.
She suffered a seizure in the office and then became unresponsive.
"They called 911 and we got to the hospital," her mother, Wendy Curtner, said. "They did a CAT scan and found out she had had massive brain bleed. At the time, they weren't sure what had caused it."
Kaitlynn survived the ordeal, after surgery and 18 days in pediatric intensive care. But much of her memory for about two months before the episode disappeared that day, when a mass of blood vessels burst in her head.
"When I woke up, they asked me if I knew what happened and I didn't," Kaitlynn said. "I had no recollection about anything for about two months prior. I didn't remember vacation — over the summer — I didn't remember anything."
She still struggles with short-term memory, a problem that kept her from starting her freshman year the past fall at Northwest High School. The solution was iUniversity Prep, an open enrollment online school in the Grapevine-Colleyville school district.
The free online school is open to any Texas student who has been enrolled in the state's education system for at least one year.
It works well for students who need to work at their own pace in their own space, said Kaye Rogers, director of virtual education for the Grapevine-Colleyville school district.
Kaitlynn's mother said an MRI at the hospital showed she had an arteriovenous malformation or AVM. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes AVM as "a defect of the circulatory system" that can emerge during fetal development. About 300,000 Americans are affected.
Doctors said Kaitlynn was born with AVM and that the condition is typically discovered when physicians are looking at unrelated MRIs. Sometimes, it isn't discovered until an autopsy, Curtner said.
"It's just one of those things that happens," Curtner said, explaining that Kaitlynn was born with "a jumbled mess of blood vessels."
"For whatever reason, it burst, and once that happens, they have to go in and repair that," Curtner said. "They kept her in a medically induced coma for over a week. We spent 18 days in the pediatric intensive care."
Doctors warned that Kaitlynn's left side would be affected.
"She was so frustrated," Curtner said. "I remember the nurse was like, 'Now, tap your left foot.' She was just staring at it. Telling us, 'I'm telling it to move, but it's not moving.'"
Kaitlynn remembered the end of sixth grade, but not much else.
"She didn't think school had started yet," Curtner said. "We were about nine days into it. In fact, she thought she was in an accident or something."
Family and friends helped her fill in the gaps.
"I just remember as people have told me," Kaitlynn said. "I just remember being the counselor's office with my friends and my head was hurting."
Kaitlynn's long-term memory is OK, but she continues to work on the short-term. Curtner said her daughter's situation was, at times, similar to Dory in Finding Nemo or the main character of 50 First Dates.
She also dealt with physical problems, including an infection and blood clots. She had to get blood thinner shots in her stomach, Curtner said.
About a week after surgery, Kaitlynn went to Our Children's House in Dallas for inpatient rehabilitation.
"It was therapy all day long," Kaitlynn and her mother said in unison, adding that it started about 7:30 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. Her therapies included physical, speech, occupational and music. She was working on being able to walk and talk and how to deal with her emotions.
Curtner said that was a rough time.
"She wanted to go home. She wanted to see her friends and we were kind of sequestered there for as long as it took," Curtner said.
The Curtners moved to Haslet on Dec. 15, 2011. Kaitlynn tried traditional school after they moved to North Texas, and attended Chisolm Trial Middle School in Rhome.
"It was hard," Curtner said. They started with half days in January 2012. Sometimes, Kaitlynn would forget where her locker was, Curtner said.
"It was just kind of draining to get up every day. Sometimes, I wouldn't even remember that we had moved," Kaitlynn said.
They switched to home schooling for the rest of seventh grade.
In fall 2012, Kaitlynn went to Truitt Wilson Middle School. She participated in theater and received an honorable mention in the one-act play UIL competition. She played Fern in Charlotte's Web. Kaitlynn also won the first-ever Wilson Talent Show, singing and playing her guitar.
"Eighth grade was a spectacular year," Curtner said.
But freshman year at Northwest High School proved too difficult. The school was too big for a young woman trying to remember where classes were located.
"It was intimidating," said Curtner. "Sometimes, we just had to turn around and go home,"
Studying at home, Kaitlynn said, "If I get frustrated, I play the guitar."
A big Taylor Swift fan, she plans to eventually study music therapy at Texas Woman's University.
"Music is amazing, I think. It heals," Kaitlynn said. "It helped me not only deal with stress, it was a method for me to remember the things I needed to remember for the day."
She recently wrote a poem and a review of Swift's latest album. She also writes her own songs, including one titled, Your Name, about a girl who takes online classes
Kaitlynn's lowest grade is a 98 and she contributes to the online school publication iHoot. The virtual school is not limited to students in the Grapevine-Colleyville area.
"We have kids from all over Texas," said Rogers. "Their needs are not being met in the traditional setting."
There are students from Tarrant County cities, Amarillo, El Paso and Beaumont.