Burdette regaining strength

Karen Danner
Family matters: Scott and Kelly Burdette hold their children, 2-year-old Carter and 4 1/2-month-old Hatley.

Nothing adds happiness to a mother’s arms like holding her newborn child.

For 33-year-old Kelly Burdette, those days have been few and far between since the birth of her daughter, Hatley Elizabeth, on April 17.

On Mother’s Day, May 11, she noticed peculiar changes in her body.

Burdette soon ended up back in the hospital, diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease which attacks the central nervous system.

Since her diagnosis, Burdette has faced multiple challenges that, without the unending help of family and friends, she would not be able to overcome.

Kelskause, a benefit in her honor, begins at noon Saturday at Pearce Community Center.

The day will include a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, food, games, live and silent auctions, music, karaoke, a children’s area, raffles (including a Nintendo Wii system) and massages.

Donations also may be dropped at CEFCU, or sent to Burdette’s sister, Kris Hopple, at 210 S. Pekin Lane, Hanna City, or visit www.kellyskause.com.

Faith, family and friends

Scott and Kelly Burdette excitedly awaited the arrival of their daughter in April.

They already had welcomed a son, Carter, born in May 2006, and life would soon get much busier.

After Hatley’s birth, Burdette developed tingling and numbness which traveled upward from her toes.

A fall finally sent her back to the hospital, where she learned she had Guillain Barre, which can cause total paralysis.

Admitted to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Burdette could not move, smile, blink or eat.

“At one point in the hospital, I was completely paralyzed,” said Burdette. “I couldn’t talk, my lips and eyes wouldn’t move. I had no facial expressions. My limbs were numb.”

Since her tongue also was numb, she found speech difficult.

She returned home from the “big house,” as her son termed it, but the time was short-lived, as she relapsed.

Doctors have no cure for her disease, but are working now to lessen its severity and length.

Burdette came home to recover with the care of OSF Home Care Services Home Health.

She recently finished with extensive speech, physical and occupational therapy, and will, as of today, go to Peoria for additional therapy.

Her arms and hands have returned to about 75 percent usage, and she is learning to walk again.

After six high-dose immunoglobulin treatments and a lengthy hospital stay, the Burdettes are struggling to make ends meet.

Scott’s time is stretched thin with his work, his wife’s recovery and two small children.

With only one income to support the family, monthly bills are a challenge, not to mention the exorbitant medical bills already incurred, as well as those to come.

For six weeks, friend Dara (Morgan) Wagner coordinated friends and family to bring a daily meal for the Burdettes.                                                                          

From Sunday night through Friday night, Burdette’s mom, Char Williamson of Lake of the Woods, and Scott’s mother, Penny Burdette of Knoxville, stay to take care of Burdette and her children.

When the weekend rolls around, Burdette’s sister-in-law, Jill (Jarmen) Williamson, as well as friends like Jeff, Lori and Brooke Wallin, arrive to help.

Recovery and rejoicing

Intensive occupational therapy has given Burdette a full range of motion in her arms.

“I can lift my arms above my head,” she said.

Physical therapy worked her legs to strengthen them so she can move.

Together, the two therapies helped her to use a walker.

“I can’t walk without the walker,” she said. “I’m very wobbly. I can’t walk unassisted at all.”

She can, however, now hold the weight of a baby bottle to feed her 4 1/2-month-old daughter or shift her position when she cries.

“I can move my arms, walk in a walker, get on the floor and play with the kids,” said Burdette. “I have enough strength in my hands that I can pick up toys, open my own pill bottles and pump a shampoo bottle.”

That is good, since she takes 15 pills each day.

“My hands and feet constantly feel like they’re asleep,” she said. “I have to always have someone with me. I rode in my wheelchair to get the kids some new clothes.”

One of her greatest joys was the ability to go to her daughter’s recent doctor appointment, accompanied by “G2.”

“That’s what the doctor calls the two grandmothers,” she said. “He was so glad to see me for a change. Hatley weighed 14 pounds and is 24 1/2 inches tall.”

Burdette also must be careful not to bend down too far, or she could fall.

“I’m just learning to get up off a couch and out of a chair,” she said. “I need something to hold onto.”

On their anniversary Sept. 3, the Burdettes headed to Basta EastPort in East Peoria. They married at Stoney Creek Inn.

“I’ve gained  new appreciation for life,” said Burdette. “Until something like this happens, you don’t know how many people come through for you or how many people’s lives you’ve touched.

You can’t put it into words and you don’t feel you can thank people enough.”

For the first time in 22 years, avid hunter Scott has not participated in the opening of dove and goose season.

He has chosen, instead, to stay by his wife and kids and relieve “G2.”

Neighbors collected money to help pay his gas from the hospital and back.

“It was comforting to have friends who came to see you in the hospital multiple times a week,” said Burdette.

Regular visitors included Keith and Addi (Murphy) Mercer, who also spent weeks on end tending to their premature twin daughters, Brynn and Brie, at OSF.

“It was nice just to let me know that life was going on outside of the hospital. It brought normalcy.”

The 1993 Illinois Valley Central High School graduate worked at Mediacom as an engineering coordinator.

She also served as secretary of the Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers, which has raised money as well to assist the Burdettes.

Unfortunately, she was terminated at Mediacom Aug. 15 because she had to go on long-term disability.

“Doctors can’t tell me how long it will take to recover,” said Burdette. “This disease presents itself differently in every patient. I’ve been told I should have 100 percent recovery, but it could take up to two years. The nerves aren’t healed yet. The muscles are being trained, but the nerves are a long way from being healed.”

Even though Scott carried his wife in to see a neurologist, he will not have to carry her into the benefit Saturday at Pearce, where the couple met.

That day will be noteworthy, since it is Scott’s 34th birthday, as well as the birthday of his brother-in-law, Scot Williamson.

“Do you know how many times we thank our lucky stars for our family and friends?” said Burdette. “Our moms help me relearn how to do things. They don’t just take care of the kids and feed them.”

Together, the Burdettes expressed extreme appreciation for their good fortune.

“We genuinely want to thank everyone who has helped in any way,” said Burdette. “Without the care and support, the road would seem much longer than it already has. We’re fortunate the kids have their health and that I’m regaining mine. Scott and I feel very lucky when we look at other families in the community who have to bear heavier burdens than we have.”

Then, from the mouth of a babe, Carter, comes a simple and honest wish for his mother.

“I want mommy to play more.”