(Re)Cycle of Life
Rather than dwelling on her life-threatening condition, 11-year-old Avery Sax is pouring all her energy into a recycling project that will leave the world a bit cleaner, a bit better for the next generation of kids
When Avery Sax discovered a year ago that she has a life-threatening malformation of blood vessels in her brain, it altered her life — in one way, for the better.
“I think everything’s completely changed for me,” the 11-year-old from Moorpark said. “I always think about everything as a good thing now. I used to think stuff was a bummer, and I was mad about stuff. Now I’m happy almost all the time. I know everything going on with me is not good, but I think of the bright side.”
The proof is in the enthusiasm of her voice, in the way she continues to pursue her favorite activities, and in her determination to create a recycling project that she hopes will improve a world in which her own future is uncertain.
“With my illness, I don’t know every morning when I wake up if I’ll be here at the end of the day, or tomorrow, or even next week,” Avery said. “But I do know the world will always be here, and other people will always be here, too. So I think we should just take care of the world, not for us but for future generations.”
To that end, the perky fifth-grader at Flory Academy of Sciences and Technology in Moorpark started a campaign called “Recycle With brAvery.” Originally a school project that began in February, Avery has expanded its reach and added a goal of collecting 100,000 cans and bottles by Earth Day on April 22.
All of Avery’s efforts are the positive outgrowth of a frightening episode in March 2011, when she suffered a brain hemorrhage and was airlifted to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Her diagnosis? An arteriovenous malformation.
“The arteries and veins in certain areas of her brain are completely malformed, twisted, knotted up. Because of that, blood flow in several areas branches off and goes to dead ends and creates other problems,” Avery’s mother, Kimber Sax, explained. “We don’t know exactly where the bleed came from, but at one point she had 100 aneurysms.”
While doctors at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center are hoping that radiation will reduce the size of the malformation over time, there remains the problem that she could bleed again at any time, Sax said.
Avery, who also attends Chabad of Moorpark, said that part of what sustains her is her faith. That was especially true at the beginning.
“I was scared and all about everything, because I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “Before every treatment, I said all my prayers. I said the Shema.”
Yet Avery said she has refused to let her condition get her down. Instead, it has made her closer to her family, synagogue and community. And rather than living in a bubble, she’s hitting life head on. That means continuing to pursue her passions: singing, hiking, sketching and more.
When her hair started to fall out in places, other girls her age might have despaired at shedding their long, gorgeous brown locks. Avery managed to see the positive in the situation:
“When I lost my hair, the first thing I said was, ‘Let’s go buy some new hats.’”
Avery has even managed to continue cheerleading for the football team of one of her two brothers, despite the fact that her head isn’t supposed to be exposed to the sun. As a solution, she wears a hat that a family friend custom-ordered for her.
Kimber Sax, a former chief operating officer of Los Angeles Jewish Publications Inc. (the predecessor to TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of TRIBE magazine and The Jewish Journal), said community support has been incredibly helpful. Sax, a single, full-time parent and cancer survivor, left her job as a consultant when her daughter became ill.
“Our financial situation is very, very tight,” she said.
Bottles for brAvery
Public contributions may be made at various rePlanet Recycling centers in the Conejo Valley, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Canoga Park and Irvine. Avery’s mother, Kimber Sax, said people should mention her daughter’s name when they drop off bottles and cans so their contributions will be put toward the cause by rePlanet, which has pledged to add an extra 10 percent to whatever is collected.
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