A force for 4-H: Despite two brain surgeries, Lansing woman returns to 4-H for last year

Published 7:11 am Tuesday, August 14, 2018

After winning five grand champion honors among the 20 ribbons she won from the Mower County Fair, a Lansing woman is now eyeing the next competition: the Minnesota State Fair.

Emily Allas, 19, an Austin High School alumna, had an impressive array of honors she garnered while at the fair last week. She proudly displayed her 20 ribbons: five grand champion ribbons, 11 blue first place ribbons, two white third place ribbons and one red second place ribbon, along with a yellow showmanship ribbon.

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It was an impressive spread of her hard work that went into showcasing her two dogs, Buddy and Lily, as well as her projects on the POW and respecting the flag. However, it was her project on moyamoya that got her qualified for the Minnesota State Fair for later this month. 

“I was not expecting it,” Allas said. “I had two brain surgeries and lost out last year. I’m excited to go up to state, but I’m a little nervous to see what I would get when I’m up there.”

Emily Allas, 19, and Kristine Allas, 52, both of Lansing, proudly stand behind the 20 ribbons that Emily won during the Mower County Fair. Kristine shared that Emily underwent two brain surgeries for moyamoya, but still came out in full force and will be competing at the Minnesota State Fair. “We’re very proud of her,” Kristine said. Hannah Yang/hannah.yang@austindailyherald.com

The headaches, the fainting

Since she was 14 years old, Allas struggled with frequent fainting and headaches. There was no explanation until a visit to Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin discovered the cause: moyamoya.

Moyamoya disease is a rare, progressive blood vessel (vascular) disorder, where the carotid artery in the skull becomes blocked or narrowed, which reduces blood flow to the brain. The tiny blood vessels then open up at the base of the brain in attempt to supply the brain with blood, according to Mayo Clinic.

The tiny clusters of blood vessels can’t supply necessary blood and oxygen to the brain, which could result in temporary or permanent brain injury. The term “moyamoya” means “puffs of smoke” in Japanese, which describes the appearance of the cluster of tiny blood vessels.

Typically, cases are found in children, but adults are known to have the condition. Emily’s symptoms didn’t appear until her early teens.

Kris Allas, 52, of Lansing and Emily’s mother, recalled the tumultuous waves of anxiety and nervousness that came with the diagnosis, but also some relief.

“It was nice to find out what was causing those fainting spells,” Kris said. “It was pretty surprising, and it was really scary. I didn’t know what to expect.”

After getting referred for surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester last year, there was an uncertainty hovering over the Allas family. However, Emily was more nervous about the post-recovery and whether she’d miss out on 4-H or get enough time to practice with her animals before showing them at the Mower County Fair.

“I was more scared about what was going to happen,” she said. “Last year, I didn’t get in practices, and didn’t show my dogs.”

The surgeries were successful. According to Emily, she had only one episode after the operations and hasn’t fainted since then. However, she still continues to suffer headaches in the back region of her head and will have to be on medication for the rest of her life.

“I was sleeping a lot and didn’t have a lot of energy to do a lot of things,” she added.

Emily struggled to remain confident during those difficult moments of treatment. There were scheduling issues, and recovery from the surgeries that took place in May and September 2017 would take two years. This meant Emily’s plans of attending Rochester Community Technical College to become a veterinary technician would be delayed.

“She would have missed eight to 10 weeks of school,” Kris explained. “That wasn’t going to work.”

Despite these moments, Emily depended on her family and friends. She also continued to volunteer with 4-H and served as an ambassador for the organization during the last two years.

“I didn’t do a lot of projects,” she said. “Just having family and friends being there with me helped.”

Emily Allas, 19, of Lansing, displays her 20 ribbons she won at the Mower County Fair. Allas suffered from moyamoya, and her project on the rare condition is competing at the Minnesota State Fair later this month. Hannah Yang/hannah.yang@austindailyherald.com

Back in the ring

Being a part of 4-H meant everything to Emily. Kris was credited for getting her interested in continuing on with the family tradition of sorts. Kris herself had been involved in the Freeborn County 4-H showing cattle and pigs, and felt having an organization to participate in would help her children learn more about responsibility.

“It was an after school program that really taught responsibility,” she said. “Parents become more educated on projects and can become better people.”

Coming back full force from her post-surgeries, Emily succeeded in garnering an “explosion” of ribbons at the Mower County Fair and will be at the Minnesota State Fair.  Although her time with 4-H would be drawing to a close, she still plans to volunteer and to coach children showing their animals at fair time. She believed 4-H helped her gain more life experiences, and she wanted to share those experiences with those interested.

“I’m still volunteering as a leader and I’ll help out the 4-H in different ways,” she shrugged. “You don’t have to be a country kid to be in 4-H. Just take projects from your school even. You can take regular projects to 4-H.”

Emily’s recovery is going well, and she took a job at REM Minnesota. She’s not entirely sure yet of what plans she has for herself in the future.

Kris said that Emily’s ongoing fight with moyamoya also prompted her daughter to grow in maturity.

“Last year, she didn’t have a lot of energy and confidence; this was kind of a comeback,” she said. “We’re very proud of her, especially with what went on over the last few years.”