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Brain surgery brings two Foothill High School teens together

Cassie Vaglienty (left) and Colby Baron formed a bond in an unlikely way. The two Orange County teens, seen here in a winter formal picture in January 2013, both underwent brain surgery with the same surgeon.
January 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Two Orange County teenagers have formed a bond in an unlikely way. They both underwent brain surgery with the same surgeon.

Foothill High School sophomore Colby Baron, 16, underwent emergency brain surgery three months ago. Cassie Vaglienty, also a 16-year-old Foothill High student, underwent brain surgery three years before. She learned about Colby's surgery and recovery through photos on his Instagram account and had to reach out.

"I just wanted to be there and tell him everything is going to be OK," Cassie said.

Colby didn't know he had a congenital condition involving abnormal blood vessels in the brain, which left him unable to speak normally.

"I kept thinking I have this extremely intelligent straight-A honor student that may be in special need classes," said Jennifer Baron, Colby's mother. "It was very scary."

Before the surgery, Cassie only knew of Colby in passing at their school. They soon learned they shared a common bond. Cassie underwent brain surgery after suffering a stroke following soccer practice. She made a full recovery after a couple of months.

Colby's mother calls him a miracle child. After three weeks away, he was well enough to return to school.

"When he came back, I just gave him a hug," Cassie said.

"We would talk about what happened and it was good to just have someone to connect with because there really wasn't anyone else that I knew that had had something like this," Colby added.

Besides brain surgery, the two share a lot in common. They have the same doctor, Dr. Michael Muhonen, director of Neurosurgery at the CHOC Neuroscience Institute. They both love soccer, too, a theme Cassie used on a poster to ask Colby to the winter formal.

"Would you please assist me in my goal of winter formal. Did I score or is it a red card?" the poster said.

Colby replied with "Yes!" written on a soccer ball and a red card that said, "I'd rather be dead than give you a red!"

The two went to the dance, but they both stress they are just friends who share a rare connection.


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