Destinie Dunn: 2016
The Sweetest Smile
In the fall of 2013, Destinie Dunn’s teachers at Blackshear Headstart noticed the three-year-old staring off into space during the school day.
“Her teachers called me and told me Destinie had been staring off,” says Annette Norton, Destinie’s mom. “She would stop what she was doing and stare into the distance for 15 to 20 seconds.”
Annette took her daughter to her Shannon pediatrician, Dr. Karl Wehner.
“I’ve known Destinie since she was born,” Dr. Wehner says. “Her mom became worried about the staring spells she was having and the frequency at which they were occurring. An EEG (electroencephalogram) test was ordered to check the electrical activity of her brain. The results of the tests revealed her staring spells were actually seizures and she was diagnosed with absence seizure disorder.”
This disorder, also called petit mal, is most common in children ages four to 12. Absence seizures are caused by irregularity in the brain’s electrical activity. Consciousness is not lost and the seizures typically last for 15 seconds. These seizures occur suddenly and without any warning signs.
“We never really know what causes children to develop seizure disorders,” Dr. Wehner says. “Sometimes it’s due to genetics, but that’s not the case with Destinie. Scar tissue in the area of the brain can be susceptible to sending out electrical discharges that trigger the seizures, but most often this area of the brain cannot be pinpointed. Seizures can also start after head trauma or certain illnesses involving the brain.”
After the diagnosis, Destinie was referred to a specialist at Cook Children’s Medical Center. She was placed on medication and her seizures went away. But, she began having bouts of unexplained fever and severe chest pain. Another trip to the doctor revealed Destinie had developed systemic lupus. This chronic inflammatory disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue and organs. The inflammation caused by lupus can affect the joints, brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood cells and the skin.
“Destinie was admitted to Cook’s for several weeks to treat her condition,” Annette says. “She saw multiple specialists during this time.”
The lupus caused fluid to develop on Destinie’s heart and small blood clots to form in her lungs. This was the cause of her severe chest pain.
In addition to her seizure medication, she was placed on medications, including pain medication and baby aspirin, to address these conditions. She continued the medication regimen for four months until her symptoms subsided.
Over the course of the last several years, Destinie has been admitted to the Pediatrics Unit at the Shannon Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
“She handles it well, but I can tell when she doesn’t feel well,” Annette says. “She is a perfect child on the outside, she just has a lot of stuff going on in the inside.”
During the visits to the hospital, she developed a special bond with one of her nurses, Skylar Stewart, RN, BSN.
“Destinie was usually in a lot of pain when she came to the hospital,” Skylar says. “Every time she was admitted, I loved taking care of her. I knew her story and how much pain she was in. I got to know her mom very well, too. You get close to these patients and their families when you are helping them get through treatment.
Skylar and the nurses on the Pediatrics Unit utilize special, child-friendly ways to administer treatments which are provided by funding from the Children’s Miracle Network.
“We always try to calm Destinie down and reassure her,” she says. “We have child-friendly ways to administer treatments, such as her IVs, and that helps her feel more comfortable. She also enjoys the small things like stickers and other rewards after her treatments.”
After subsiding initially, Destinie’s seizures have continued to occur.
“Destine’s conditions have affected me a lot, as well as her little sister, Taj,” Annette says. “Luckily, my family has been very supportive and we have put it all in God’s hands. We call my mom and grandmothers every night and we all pray together.”
Annette is very appreciative of Dr. Wehner, Skylar and everyone who has helped take care of her daughter. She holds onto the hope Destinie will outgrow her seizure disorder and live life as a healthy child.
“Destinie is a miracle to me because she is so strong,” she says. “She is my miracle baby.”