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Singing again

June 01, 2012 by Beth Anne Atkins

Singing again 
Saved by surgery and care at Vidant Children’s Hospital, Kennedy Dean, 7, of Wayne County regains her strength and skills after blood vessels rupture in her brain 


GREENVILLE, NC – An ordinary school day turned into a crisis for Kennedy Dean, 7, and her family. While she was playing outside, her neck began to hurt. Suddenly, she passed out and became unresponsive. 

She was airlifted by Vidant Medical Transport to Vidant Children’s Hospital where a brain scan revealed a serious problem. An undetected blood vessel defect in her brain had ruptured, causing life-threatening bleeding inside her head. 

Within hours, part of her skull was removed, allowing her brain to swell without causing additional harm. “We were in lifesaving mode,” her father, Dwayne Dean, of Pikeville in Wayne County remembers. She later underwent surgery to remove the malformed blood vessels that caused her problem. Her recovery included more than three months in Vidant Children’s Hospital. 
These days, she’s back outside, kicking the soccer ball with her father. Although she needs more time before she can run at full speed, she’s slowly returning to her normal life as a child. 

“She’s doing well,” Dwayne Dean says. She’s even remembering some of her favorite music. “Songs are coming back to her.” 

Kennedy Dean, who is also the daughter of Kim Dean, is one of this year’s miracle children for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. She will represent Vidant Children’s Hospital during this year’s Celebration Broadcast. The yearly fundraising event, now in its 27th year, is set to air June 1 and 3 on WITN. The 2012 miracle children in addition to Kennedy are Evan Salerno, 3, of Jacksonville at Camp Lejeune; Ava Gee, 6, of Greenville; and Miranda Hale, 14, of Tarboro. The teen ambassador is Davie Swinson, 18, of Onslow County. They recovered from serious illness or injury through the medical care they received at Vidant Children’s Hospital in Greenville. 

“This year’s miracle children are unbelievable,” says Dr. Ronald M. Perkin, co-director of Vidant Children’s Hospital and professor and chairman, Department of Pediatrics, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “Each one’s ability to carry on with a successful life is due to a response to the medical needs we provided when they most desperately needed it. Having this hospital in the community is what that’s all about. 

“The community shows how much it cares about children by providing contributions to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” he says. “In turn, their generosity grants us the resources we need to see beyond the obvious treatments and save more lives.” 

This year, the broadcast will celebrate these children and the generous donors whose gifts made their life-saving care possible. Their support has helped with the expansion of Vidant Children’s Hospital. It will add 78,000 additional square feet for children’s care, including a new kids immunosuppressed special unit with a controlled environment and special ventilation systems to reduce the possibility for infection. It will have a treatment and recovery area for children who do not need an overnight stay. A newborn convalescent area will give newborns and their families private rooms while they grow stronger. 

“Our donors make the difference for children throughout eastern North Carolina,” says Laura Lee Potter, program director for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “They save lives and bring miracles to thousands of children each year by sharing their financial resources, volunteer hours and other types of support. Their generosity makes sure we can provide advanced medical care, close to home, to the families and children who depend on us.” 
Kennedy suffered from an arteriovenous malformation, a condition she had from birth. It remained hidden until the day the vessels erupted and “she was without doubt at death’s door,” her father recalls. 

Yet from the moment they arrived at Vidant Children’s Hospital, Dwayne says, “I had a sense that everything was going to be OK. Everything was going to be fine.” 

Eventually it would, but it took time. For two months, Kennedy remained seriously ill in the pediatric intensive care unit. While her brain healed, the skull was removed and only her scalp covered the brain tissue. At first she was unable to move the right side of her body and could not speak. Soon she regained movement and started talking. When she was ready for the next stage of recovery, she moved into the pediatric rehabilitation unit, one of only two like it in the state. There, she did the exercises and other physical therapies that allowed her to return home. 

“We had to start over with the basic stuff, even colors, because [the defect] was so deep in her brain,” her father says. 

Throughout her hospital stay, her doctors, nurses and child life staff made sure Kennedy was taken care of in every way. “Her nurses are like part of the family,” he says. When her skull was replaced, Dr. Richard Zeri, a reconstructive surgeon from the Brody School of Medicine, made sure the scarring was minimal. 

Still, she had lots of work ahead to regain her short-term memory, muscle skills and stamina. That improvement continues today, although her doctors describe her recovery as a marathon and not a sprint. She’s back in school for a couple of hours each day and has therapy three times a week. 
She is nearly back at her grade level, her father reports. 

“Her reading is coming along quicker than her math before she got sick,” he says. “Reading was her strong suit, and that’s coming back better.” 
Her hair has grown again to cover up the site of her brain surgery, and her outgoing personality has returned, too. 

“She doesn’t know a stranger,” he says. “Everyone in the hospital fell in love with her.” 
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