What started as a routine eye exam quickly turned into a family’s worst nightmare.
Lauren Tyrrell, of Melbourne, Australia, says she took her three daughters to an ophthalmologist for a standard eye test before the start of the school year. But much to the mother’s surprise, the doctor found abnormal pressure behind 7-year-old Alexis’ eyes.
“[The doctors] decided to send her off to a few different specialists,” Tyrrell tells PEOPLE. “[They said] the swelling behind the optic nerve could be dangerous, so they wanted to do an MRI to check to make sure that it was nothing serious.”
Just moments after Alexis’ MRI, doctors told the family that the little girl needed to undergo brain surgery immediately.
“We were devastated. We didn’t expect to have to be rushed into surgery. When they told us, we thought we would have a week or two, but we had like two hours then they took Alexis into surgery.”
Doctors quickly diagnosed Alexis with Chiari malformation, a condition in which brain tissue grows into the spinal canal and part of the skull presses on the brain and forces it downward.
Tyrrell says breaking the news to her daughter then was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.
“We didn’t really say anything to her because we knew she would freak out. She was only 7,” Tyrrell tells PEOPLE. “When we went to get ready, she asked what was going on because there were people everywhere. I said, ‘They’re gonna do a little operation on your head.’
“I was carrying her, she jumped down and ran away. It was horrible. We had a healthy child, then suddenly they’re telling us there’s something wrong.”
Alexis underwent her first brain surgery on July 7, 2017, and her second just three days later. Months after the procedures, Tyrrell says she is still shocked at the situation, noting that Alexis had always been a healthy little girl.
Although the now 8-year-old girl has lots of energy and functions like a typical child — despite occasional headaches and neck pain — Tyrrell says the family has no idea what the future holds for Alexis.
“We just take each day as it comes. We don’t look ahead too far, we just wait and see,” Tyrrell tells PEOPLE. “We’re just lucky. We’re grateful for what we have now, so we try not to look too far ahead.”
Still, the possibility of losing her daughter is something Tyrrell says she often thinks about. She compared the situation to that of her 10-year-old daughter, Makayla, who underwent three open heart surgeries by the age of 4.
“It’s a constant fear of not knowing what’s gonna happen,” the doting mother says. “When [Makayla] was a baby, we used to picture her funeral because we didn’t know if she was gonna make it. So with Alexis, it’s like the same thing. We aren’t sure if she’s gonna make it. We just aren’t sure.”
Tyrrell first shared her story with Love What Matters.