Sometimes the little things define patient care. For Angie King, the care her daughter Kaylan received at UNC Children’s is defined by a late-night spaghetti delivery, special birthday decorations, and meeting Harry Styles.
Ten-year-old Kaylan King had performed in her clogging and jazz recital a few weeks before and had pitched a double-header softball game just two nights before being transported to UNC Children’s after her mild headaches quickly progressed to the inability to do simple tasks like bathe or eat. When Kaylan and her parents arrived at UNC, they learned that she had suffered a giant basilar artery aneurysm. Kaylan was immediately placed under the care of Dr. Deanna Sasaki-Adams, who would perform brain surgery on Kaylan just two days later.
Kaylan’s mom, Angie, recalls these first days at UNC Children’s vividly, even four and a half years later. Angie remembers not thinking Kaylan would survive the aneurysm. She also remembers the nurses who “played around with Kaylan” and let her friends come visit, all to keep her calm and relaxed so her condition would not deteriorate further.
The night before Kaylan’s brain surgery, one of her nurses asked what her favorite food was – it was spaghetti. Her nurse was diligent in making sure Kaylan got what she wanted for her pre-surgery meal – when she was unable to get spaghetti from the cafeteria, she had a spaghetti dinner delivered straight to Kaylan’s room. After her brain surgery, Kaylan spent her 11th birthday at UNC Children’s recovering from the aneurysm. The UNC Children’s nurses celebrated Kaylan’s birthday with her and decorated her room with balloons and ribbons.
On June 17, 2014, Kaylan left UNC Children’s to begin four months of rehab in Greenville, but her connection to UNC did not end. Kaylan returned to UNC Children’s a year ago for spine surgery with Dr. Edmund R. Campion. The surgery also provided Kaylan an opportunity to see one of her favorite therapists, Courtney. Dr. Sasaki-Adams knew Kaylan had dreams of becoming a singer one day. She nominated Kaylan for a Make-a-Wish, and because of Dr. Sasaki-Adams’ nomination, Kaylan got to meet One Direction’s Harry Styles on her 15th birthday in June 2018.
Kaylan continues to fight through complications after suffering a stroke during the brain surgery that saved her life. Her left side continues to be the weakest. However, within the last six to eight months, she has been able to pick up her left arm and put weight on it. As she was learning to talk again, her therapist created a color-coded spelling chart that allowed her to spell out words. She also communicated by rolling her eyes up and down. For instance, she used this method to communicate to her parents that she did not want to eat through her GI tube anymore–she wanted “regular food.” Kaylan just had her GI tube removed; now she eats anything she wants.
Kaylan is still in a wheelchair. However, her sights are set on getting out of it soon and she is working hard to walk again. Inspired by an ESPN anchor who was recently on Dancing with the Stars after spending nearly a decade paralyzed from the waist down, Kaylan has hope that she too will be able to walk and dance someday.
The overall care that Kaylan received at UNC Children’s set her on the path to fight and win the many uphill battles she faces in her journey to recovery. It is the personalized care though—remembering her daughter’s favorite food, celebrating her birthday and giving Kaylan the opportunity to meet her musical hero—that Angie describes as “making my heart so happy.”
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