To live relatively normal lives, these children must give up something most of us can't imagine.

The Power of Half a Brain 

To live relatively normal lives, these children must give up something most of us can't imagine.

Page 8 of 9

She says most were amazed that they could be carrying on a conversation with a girl who had half a brain.

Now, Jill is a college student at Cameron University, studying to be an elementary school teacher. Between going to classes and volunteering at her church, she hangs out with her friends, plays spades on the computer or works through Sudoku puzzles.

She's not sure how she feels different from her classmates — or whether she does at all.

"I think about it every once in a while, but my only downfall is I can't drive," she says matter-of-factly.

It's been more than 20 years since the surgery, but Kim Scherler still hopes her daughter appreciates the dilemma their family faced.

"You know, I still hate it for her, that she had to go through that," Kim says. "But on the other hand, we've explained to her that we did what we had to do to save her life." It's been more than a year since Olivia had her last seizure, but sometimes Michelle has moments of panic. "If I feel her jerk, or just a movement I'm used to feeling when she was having a seizure, I still have that fear," she says. "And I don't know if that will ever go away."

Getting through the day can be a challenge. When she's excited, Olivia is a perpetual-motion machine. Spending her afternoon inside on a chilly January day, she races back and forth across the living room. "One, two, three, four, five!" she shouts, punctuating her count with two-footed jumps and flips of the light switch.

Grinning, she launches herself onto the couch before hunkering down into her mother's lap.

"You've been a stinker from day one, haven't you?" Jeff says with a wry smile.

Olivia grins and points her finger at him as if in admonishment.

"Give me five," he says.

She reaches toward him with her right hand.

"No, with lefty," he says. "Give me lefty."

Reminding her to use the left side of her body isn't the only postsurgery refrain in the Johnson household. Olivia still needs constant reminders to relax.

"She doesn't have a self-calming mechanism," Jeff explains. "That's a right-hemisphere thing."

So they've taught her to sit and count to 10 or sing a song quietly. When she gets riled up, she is prompted to say "deep breath" to remind herself to settle down.

Michelle is lucky if Olivia sleeps until 3 a.m. before waking up to play. Most nights, she barely makes it past midnight before she needs to be lulled back to sleep.

Olivia is still too young to understand what happened to her, but her grandmother has prepared an introduction.

"Olivia's Story, by Grandma Doris Johnson" is a nine-page journal detailing her granddaughter's experience from the day of her stroke to her first follow-up at the clinic in December.

Olivia will know that the night before her surgery, she ate lasagna cooked in the hotel microwave. She'll know that the same day that doctors switched her from codeine to morphine, she asked her mom for McDonald's french fries.

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