The Art of Persistence
Hailey Kehoe ‘24 overcame a severe brain hemorrhage, multiple surgeries, and learning to walk again. Now, she’s planning to give back with a career in art therapy.
After suffering from a severe brain hemorrhage and being diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) at the age of 12, doctors didn’t know if Hailey Kehoe ’24 would survive. Now, she is turning her dream of becoming an art therapist into reality as she joins York College’s Fine Art program.
For Hailey, February 9, 2013 began like any other day. Having suffered from migraines for years, the oncoming headache wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until she woke up in an ambulance that she realized something serious had happened to her.
Hailey ultimately learned she had suffered from a severe brain hemorrhage caused by an AVM, an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins typically in the brain or spine. The tangle caused her blood vessels to weaken and rupture, causing the bleed in her brain.
She was flown to Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital after the AVM was discovered, and then rushed into emergency surgery in hopes of relieving the pressure on her brain. While the first 48 hours after surgery were an up-and-down battle, she eventually stabilized and was taken out of a medically induced coma. Once awake, the effects of the hemorrhage became apparent: Hailey was unable to walk or speak. She would need months of rehabilitation.
While she was out of the woods for the moment, the question of what to do about Hailey’s AVM still remained. Without intervention, she could experience another hemorrhage. Hailey underwent a minimally invasive procedure to block the blood flow to the AVM and to help it die off on its own. Unfortunately, due to the size of the AVM, the procedure failed. Hailey had to pursue the next treatment option — open brain surgery. Finally, her doctors were able to successfully remove the AVM.
For the second time in two years, Hailey was placed in rehab to relearn how to walk. As she fought through two of the toughest years of her life, she also focused on one of her major ambitions: graduating high school.
“Before I got sick, I loved school,” Hailey says. “That was my motivation to get better. My goal was to graduate high school, and that’s what I sat there and fought for. Getting back to school was my motivation to pick myself back up and push myself to get back to a place similar to where I was before I got sick.”
And that’s exactly what she did. While still in and out of rehab for more long-term physical disabilities caused by her hemorrhage, she managed to return to school and graduated from Red Lion High School in 2019. From there, she enrolled at Harrisburg Area Community College, where she studied Art. Now, Hailey has joined the York College community, and is completing her bachelor’s degree in Fine Art.
“When I was little, I told everybody I was going to be an artist,” Hailey explains.” I went from that to believing I wanted to be an art teacher. Now, my final decision and what I’m working toward, is becoming an art therapist. I visited a bunch of different programs when I was in high school, but York’s Art department was one that stuck with me.”
Hailey credits her goal of becoming an art therapist to her time in rehab after her surgery. She found that art therapy was something that pushed her to get back to a life of normalcy.
“Art therapy was really something that helped me when I was in the hospital,” she says. “The first time I stood up on my own after I got sick, I was painting a picture. There was a therapist who told me to stand and paint. So, the first time I was able to stand by myself, I was doing art. That moment was always something that stuck with me. ”
Hailey has officially started her journey as a Spartan, having joined York College in the Spring 2022 semester. As she works toward finishing her bachelor’s degree, she continues to work with organizations such as Children’s Miracle Network and Make a Wish Foundation to raise money for Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.