SportsHigh School


A captain, a fighter and an inspiration: Hannah Mulhern back on the court after brain surgery

Mulhern had a tumor removed back in May
Posted at 10:59 AM, Nov 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-19 10:59:19-05

"My whole entire life revolves around volleyball."

Hannah Mulhern can be found on a court nearly year round. She's a senior at St. Mary's in Lancaster who also plays for the Niagara Frontier volleyball club.

You can see her love for the game. What you can't see is the time when this game was almost taken away from her and it all started with a simple headache back in February.

 "I was just sitting on the couch and all of a sudden it felt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat," Hannah said.

Hannah was diagnosed with grade 2 meningioma. It's a brain tumor that is starting to be more aggressive than benign.

She wound up having surgery but her doctors were unable to remove the entire tumor. That's when Neurosurgeon Adnan Siddiqui stepped in.

 "The tumor was pushing into the junction between the brain and the spinal cord," he said. "You can imagine the compression of this critical structure can have serious consequences."

Because the tumor was entwined in the part of the brain that connects you to the rest of your body. Dr. Siddiqui had done this surgery many times before and in late may, he operated on Hannah.
"Afterward you were able to see the brain stem and the spinal cord. They were completely removed of any pressure and the tumor was gone."

The 12-hour surgery was a success. but it was also the beginning of a long road to recovery.

"I had a scratched cornea and I had bursitis on my hip so I couldn't walk at all," Hannah said.

The process to get back on her feet was going to be hard. One thing didn't change though and that was Hannah's perseverance to get back to the court.

 "I wasn't sure as to how rapidly she was going to recover," Dr. Siddiqui said. "But I am sure that if you provide a real reason, a real motivation for a patient to really get engaged in their recovery, I think it makes a tremendous difference in how fast they recover."

That motivation was volleyball.

Wheelchair and all, Hannah went to off-season practice and sat in the gym that feels like a second home.

"It just brought tears to your eyes," St. Mary's head volleyball coach Donald Pieczynski said. "But she wanted to be here to support the girls and through her immense dedication, she showed that hey, if I can do this, you guys can overcome any obstacle."

Fast forward five months and Hannah is back on the court. She still experiences pain and sometimes gets double vision but that only further proves how much of an inspiration she really is.

 "Nobody has the determination like she has and she's bouncing back in every facet of the game," said Rocco Lucci, one of the directors of the Niagara Frontier volleyball club. "It's really cool to see her out on the court and turning everybody's heads that thought she wasn't going to be able to return to the court and contribute to her teams."

With the support from her friends, family, and community, Hannah is back doing what she loves and what she went through has forever changed her outlook on life.

 "I think it has just made me so much more of a stronger person," she said. "I really look at the better side of life and don't stress about the little things anymore because I know there's a bigger picture."

Hannah says she plans to go into the medical field and help others get through their own diagnosis.


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