North Texas boy with rare disease ready for dream voyage to Alaska

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FRISCO — An 11-year-old Frisco boy with a very rare and often fatal disease is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.

Austin Rice and his family are on their way to Alaska to fulfill his wish.

The sixth grader started feeling poorly during a baseball practice. "It felt like a really hard baseball hit me in the head," he said.

Austin’s mother, Dawn Rice, said it came without warning.

"One day he was playing baseball, and then he complained of a headache, and the next thing we knew we were in the ICU," she said.

Austin was diagnosed with an ateriovenous malformation (AVM). It's an abnormal connection between arteries and veins that erupted in his brain.

He was in the intensive care unit at Children's Medical Center for weeks. "He was in a coma for two weeks and we were at our lowest point," said Doug Rice, Austin’s father. "And we weren't sure honestly if he was going to live."

But the latest chapter in the Rice family's frightening journey is one to celebrate.

Austin is now doing well. His fellow sixth graders at Pioneer Heritage Middle School gave him a rousing send-off for his next journey, a family cruise to Alaska, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"I wanted to see a glacier," Austin said. "I wanted to see how hard they were, not just a regular piece of ice, but a huge piece of ice."

Austin’s father said it gave the family joy to see him surprised at his classmates’ send-off.

"To see him walk into the room today, you would look at Austin and not know there was anything wrong with him."

Austin will have to be monitored for the rest of his life. His parents say the Alaska voyage will be a welcome break, far from hospitals and doctors.