by Alex Vukoder
Keira Holzman spent her spring break at home recovering after having surgery to remove her left leg to mid-thigh due to an arteriovenous malformation, a rare, congenital condition where tangles of blood vessels cause multiple irregular connections between the arteries and veins. She is an eleven-year-old, fifth-grader at Leighton Elementary in Aurora.
Keira was an active six-year-old, with a love and aptitude for gymnastics and tumbling when a suddenly swollen knee hinted at a more complicated medical situation.
“We thought maybe she fell and injured it. When x-rays didn’t provide answers, we had an MRI,” said Keira’s mother, Amanda Holzman. “It took about a year of appointments and testing to get a correct diagnosis.”
Over the following five years, Keira’s treatment plan included physical therapy, pain management, and two to three surgeries a year to reduce pain and reroute the blood flow. None of these interventions were effective and did little to alleviate the extreme pain. Her leg and foot were so sensitive that a mere touch could bring her to tears.
Keira became less and less mobile and started to withdraw to the point that her family knew they needed a different solution. Amputation was not an easy decision to make, and Keira was very much a part of the process.
Amanda and her husband Jarod said Keira told them she knew this was the right decision when the pain became so intense, she couldn’t sleep at night.
Keira is doing well since her surgery in late March and is eager to join the track team and return to gymnastics. While she still has the malformation, the painful and harmful parts of her leg have been removed. This allows for a healthier heart and gives her hips and spine the opportunity to realign. She will also be able to play actively with her friends and her younger sisters Lexi, 9, and Mikilah, 7.
“We are looking at this surgery as a new beginning for her. She is already more mobile and in less pain. This will be a long journey but we are so hopeful,” said Amanda.
The communities in which the Holzmans live and work have rallied around them. Amanda is a second-grade teacher at Richfield Elementary, where Keira attended grades K-3, and Jarod is a firefighter with the city of Aurora.
“We are a family here. When we learned what the Holzman family was facing, we immediately asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to help?’” said Lori Head, Amanda’s colleague at Richfield Elementary School.
Head and fellow teacher Debbie Schwertner organized a fundraiser to sell T-shirts designed by Kelly Rouke, who was Kiera’s second-grade teacher at Richfield Elementary. Combined, the communities purchased 1,500 shirts, raising more than $8,000 to help the family with medical expenses and prosthetics.
“It’s really impressive how the entire staff, students and community have come together. I’m proud to be a part of this team,” said Richfield Elementary Principal Anthony Stretar.
“We genuinely thank the communities of Aurora, Bath, and Richfield. The support we have received is humbling and overwhelming,” said Amanda. “I am so blessed to work in the Revere School District. Thank you is just not enough. Keira is a warrior and has an amazingly positive attitude. I can’t wait to see what she chooses to do with her newfound freedom.”
To follow Keira and the Holzman family’s journey and offer support, visit gofund.me/ae3672c4. ∞