Children's Hospital Colorado

Kaela: Living Life to the Fullest After Brain Surgery

Kaela Mattson was 14-years-old when she began to have debilitating migraines. Her family was referred to Children's Hospital Colorado by Kaela's pediatrician, where doctors found a non-malignant brain tumor called an epidermoid the size of a large lemon.Dr. Handler, right, removed Kaela's brain tumor when she was 14-years-old.


Dr. Michael Handler and Dr. Lori McBride (formerly at Children's Colorado), and their team performed a six-and-a-half hour surgery to remove the growing tumor. Kaela then spent two weeks at Children's Colorado recovering.

"I made a full recovery. I continued to be monitored by Dr. Handler until I was 19 years old, then I moved to University of Colorado Hospital with Dr. Kevin Lillehei. I still see Dr. Handler from time to time, but not on a patient basis," Mattson said.

Seeing life in a new light

Almost as soon as she was discharged, she wanted to give back to the hospital that helped her through her ordeal.

"After my surgery, I started to look at life in a completely different way. I don't take anything for granted, I live my life to the fullest, and I feel so blessed to have been given the life that I do have. Dr. Handler and Dr. McBride saved my life, and I could never thank them enough for it.

Mattson added, "Meeting the volunteers [while I was hospitalized] changed my view completely. Just putting a small smile on someone's face – that is what it's all about. I saw the impact they had on me and so I applied to be a volunteer as soon as I got out of the hospital."

Returning to help

Mattson began as a junior volunteer in 2004 and received the honor of Junior Volunteer of the Year in 2006. As she grew older, she served as a senior volunteer, and received a scholarship towards her college education. After she graduated, she returned as an adult volunteer.

In 2011, Mattson took her service to Children's Colorado a step further when she began working full time as an admissions representative.

Sharing a personal journey to calm others

"I wanted to work here no matter what," Mattson said. "It's an honor and a huge responsibility to work in admissions. I love sharing my story with families; I let them know there is a brighter side. It's important to go the extra mile to help them be a little calmer."

Mattson is grateful to her caregivers and how they've impacted her life.

"If it wasn't for Dr. Handler and Dr. McBride, I wouldn't have had the courage or the mind-set to become the person that I am today, they made me realize how important my life is," she said.