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Shes hoping to serve as student ambassador
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Holly Hoben was nine years old when a series of transient ischemic attacks – episodes with stroke-like symptoms that may be a precursor to a real stroke – landed her in the hospital.

Given her young age doctors had a hard time coming up with an explanation for the phenomena, and her mother kept bringing her to various doctors week after week to get an answer to what was happening to her daughter – something she would do for eight months before she landed in a neurologist’s office that ordered an MRI.

An abnormal reading concerned the doctor, and after a referral to the Madera Children’s Hospital the family finally got a diagnosis.

Holly had Moyamoya disease, a rare and incurable condition where certain arteries of the brain are constricted, impeding blood flow and making the afflicted person susceptible to blood clots.

Seven years and two brain surgeries later, the 16-year-old is trying to raise money to be a part of the People to People Student Ambassador Program – providing her the opportunity to spend more than two weeks in Australia learning about their culture and sharing her own during the trip.

It’s a major milestone for a young woman who lost a large portion of her childhood to a disease that prevented her from playing sports, being overly active or participating in some of the other activities that most kids get to enjoy when growing up.

“She’s been through so much medically and lost so much of her childhood because of this,” Holly’s mother Hillary said. “She was told that she couldn’t ever participate in sports and she’s missed out on so many opportunities. Because of the nature of this disease, we never know when it’s going to come back, so as a mother I really want her to experience this trip.

“While she’s able, I want her to get the chance to experience things like this because you never know what life is going to throw your way.”

Originally from California, the family moved to Texas where they have spent the last six years.

But medical problems once again surfaced in the form of migraine headaches. Local doctors couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause, and after months of waiting, the family made the decision to move back to Northern California so they could be closer to Stanford Medical Center – the top-flight research facility that has experience dealing with Moyamoya syndrome.

Fortunately for Holly, the migraines, as it turned out, didn’t have anything to do with her disease and she was cleared to move forward with planning her trip.

So far the family has raised half of the $7,000 cost of the trip and is currently reaching out to businesses in the community for sponsorship. They are also selling raffle tickets to raise the rest of the money – with prizes including an iPod touch as well as other big-ticket items that have yet to be named.

Hoben said she’s hoping to sell 400 of the $10 tickets to cover the complete cost of the trip.

“We’ve done everything we can from collecting cans and bottles from friends and family to holding a yard sale,” she said. “Hopefully the community can support this because I really want to see my daughter get the chance to do something like this. We weren’t sure it was going to be possible, and I’m hoping that it’ll be something that she’ll never forget.”

For more information about how to help, or to purchase the $10 raffle tickets, contact Hillary Hoben at (209) 923-4673. The cutoff for ticket sales and donations is May 20 to coincide with the final payment date of May 23.