HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Blue skies and sunshine made for a perfect day to be at the diamond Wednesday.
But for Hudsonville JV softball player Jessica Mead, who was in the hospital with a brain tumor just five months ago, her and her parents don’t need a perfect day.
“We’re just grateful that she’s healthy and could do something that she loves to do,” her mother, Karen Mead, said.
Jessica Mead loves softball, a sport she’s played her whole life. It’s hard for her parents to remember a time when she wasn’t playing.
“It’s a sport where you fail a lot, so the times when you do succeed, it makes it that much more greater and that much more exciting,” Jessica Mead said.
At one point, striking out might’ve have seemed like the biggest setback in the world for the 16-year-old. That was until the fall, when she started getting debilitating headaches that kept her bedridden most days.
“I’d just have headaches and those would cause me to throw up, and I was really tired,” she said.
Despite getting treated for migraines, the pain was getting worse.
“It wasn’t working and I kept throwing up. So we called (the doctor) and scheduled the MRI,” she said.
That was Dec. 1, 2022, a day the Mead family will never forget.
“It felt like an out-of-body experience, my whole body heated up and cooled down,” Pete Mead, her father, said.
“That’s when we got the news that they found a tumor in her brain. It was devastating to all of us, shocking,” said Karen Mead.
“When they said they were admitting me to the hospital, that’s when I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is serious,'” Jessica Mead said. “I’ve never really been to the hospital before.”
Days later, Jessica went into surgery at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, not knowing what she would have to face on the other side.
“All you could think about is just the bad thoughts of possibly losing your own kid,” Pete Mead said.
Yet the Meads felt oddly at peace the day of her surgery.
The scan of her brain revealed something unexplainable.
“There was a heart right inside that tumor on the imaging,” Karen Mead said. “And we all were like, ‘It’s going to be alright.’ That was just a sign of something.”
After a 13-hour surgery, the benign tumor the size of a golf ball was removed, but the road to recovery was just beginning. For Jessica Mead, that meant re-learning how to stand and walk.
“When they told her, ‘Walk to the door.’ She said ‘No, I’m going to the hallway.’ She just wanted to push herself and to get better,” her mom said.
“I would do laps around the hospital floor with my dad, and I was walking with the walker, and then one day he was just like, ‘Want to put the walker down?’ and I just held his hand, and we did laps around the hospital floor,” Jessica Mead said.
She only spent a few weeks in the hospital before she came home.
“It literally was our Christmas miracle,” Karen Mead said.
The short amount of time that it took to get back on the field was just as remarkable.
“I was worried I’d lose my softball swing,” she said. “I had to re-learn how to walk, for sure I’d have to re-learn how to swing. But a few fixes and my swing was there and it’s back, which is the craziest part.”
“I cried her first couple of games just playing this season, because we didn’t even think this was possible,” Karen Mead said. “I cried when she hits the ball, I cried when she hit a home run. It’s a miracle, really, to see her out there.”
“It makes every play that you’re able to make or even every at-bat that much better,” Jessica Mead said. “When I was in the hospital, I was thinking, ‘All I want to do is hit right now.'”
She’s not just playing: She’s thriving. Jessica Mead now leads the team in home runs this season.
“I want to be good for a normal person,” Jessica Mead said. “Not be good for someone that just got brain surgery.”
Unless you saw the scar on the back of her head, you’d never be able to tell where she was five months ago.