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9-year-old Idaho girl undergoes life-changing surgery in Houston

Tobin Hoagland's parents made the tough decision to drive her across the country to get the medical attention she needed during the height of COVID-19.

HOUSTON — What started out as headaches for a 9-year-old girl ended up with brain surgery in Houston.

Tobin Hoagland's parents made the tough decision to drive her across the country this summer to Houston to get the medical attention she needed during the height of COVID-19.

“We’ve known that she’s had her arachnoid cyst since kindergarten," said Talia Hoagland, her mother.

For this 3rd grader who loves anything pink, pizza and Looney Tunes, living with a cyst on her brain became part of life.

“We were just told to go home and not worry about it unless it became troublesome," she said.

However, the headaches Tobin was getting kept her from school, riding her bike, even dinner time with her family.

“I was laying on the floor," Tobin said. “It was a number 10 no matter how flat and still I was.”

“It was very scary,” her mom said.

So she said a prayer, went online and stumbled upon a video from Dr. David Sandberg about her daughter’s exact symptoms.

“With COVID-19, I thought there’s no way that they are getting back to me," she said.

Dr. Sandberg's office did and the family made the decision during the pandemic to drive 26 hours from Idaho to Houston.

“Only a small percentage of kids have cysts that are actually causing problems," said Dr. Sandberg with Memorial Hermann UT Health. He performed the surgery at Children’s Memorial Hermann.

“Her cyst is smaller now that we’ve decompressed it. I expect that she will be cured of this problem, I think she's going to live a normal life," he said.

Tobin’s now back home in Idaho and able to start school virtually, headache free.

“You cannot be afraid if you have to do some big surgery," said Tobin, reflecting on the lessons she's learned.

“My big message is, I hope, you need to be your own advocate," her mom said. “If you have an intuition something is not right, to listen to that."

For this family, the little voice inside a mother’s heart made all the difference for her daughter.