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Wishek Hospital

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Monday
Jul142014

A SURPRISING DIAGNOSIS FOR LOCAL TEEN'S LIFELONG HEADACHES

Destinee Huber recovering at St. Alexius shortly after her surgery.

        It was Thursday, April 9th.  Destinee’s mother, Felicia Huber Sampson, a WHC paramedic, knew something wasn’t right when Destinee cut her CNA shift short at the Wishek Home for the Aged due to a massive headache.  “It was odd,” said Felicia.  “She is such a worker bee, she doesn’t normally take off work when she isn’t feeling one hundred percent.”  Felicia made an appointment for Destinee to see Polly Benson, PA/NP at the Wishek Clinic.  At the appointment, Polly ran Destinee through a physical exam that focused on her neurological (brain and nerve) function after asking Destinee a few more questions about her symptoms.  Destinee’s recent knee troubles, her unusual gait, the headaches that intensified when she put her head forward, and even the trouble Destinee described forming sentences were all signs to Polly that Destinee wasn’t just suffering from normal headaches.  “These subtle things patients mention that are not run-of-the-mill are a sort of red flag in medicine that prompts us to do more testing,” says Polly.
        A CT scan confirmed Polly’s suspicions.  Destinee had hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain.  The fluid that brain cavities produce normally washes over the brain and spinal cord, acting as a cleanser before it is released into the bloodstream.  In Destinee’s case, her cavities were not emptying the fluid.  Polly consulted a neurosurgeon from St. Alexius who scheduled an MRI for Monday.  If things worsened, she would have to get the MRI earlier.  “It was scary,” commented Felicia.  “I’m so used to taking care of people in the community that I know, but it’s very hard when it’s someone so close to you.”
        The next day, the headaches set in again causing Destinee to vomit because of the pain.  “My headache just kept getting worse.  I could barely open my eyes and couldn’t move.”  Polly responded to a phone call from Felicia and urged her to get Destinee to St. Alexius as fast as possible.  “The next thing I know, I was lying down on a bed.  I could see someone poking me but couldn't feel a thing,” Destinee recalls upon arriving at St. AlexiusThe next morning, they made the decision to undergo brain surgery that same day.  St. Alexius’s Neurologist, Dr. Steven Kraljic, drained the fluid from Destinee’s brain cavities and connected a magnetic lever that flushes the fluid out electronically, something she will have the rest of her life.  Before she was released from the hospital, Dr. Kraljic brought his medical team to visit, “because apparently, I was a rare case,” said Destinee.  Finding hydrocephalus in a teenager is uncommon since most are diagnosed at birth, later in life, or after a head trauma.  
        Destinee was transferred home under close supervision of her medically-trained mother.  “She took good care of me.  I was not even allowed to sit up without her help,” Destinee laughed.  The recovery has been smooth with the help of check-ups at the Wishek Clinic and St. Alexius.  Destinee is most excited about her re-gained coordination.  She can walk without a limp, forming sentences is back to normal, the headaches are diminishing, and the constant sound of waves has stopped.  “It sounds weird, but I have been hearing waves since I was a little girl.”  What she thought was normal was actually from her hydrocephalus.  It wasn’t until after the surgery that Destinee noticed the waves were gone.  While each symptom seemed disconnected, Felicia states, “I look back on her life and see now those side effects were signs of the hydrocephalus.”  Destinee compared her health issue to a puzzle.  “It’s like looking at pieces instead of the whole picture.”  Once she visited the Wishek Clinic, the whole puzzle came together.  “The biggest thing I learned is ‘always go to the doctor.’  Who knows, if your knee hurts, it might be hydrocephalus!"
        This summer, Destinee will be working in Wishek until mid July when she takes off for Baltimore, MD to start AmeriCorps.  “The people in Wishek did a phenomenal job.  You could tell they actually care about you.  The smaller the town, the better the health care,” said Destinee.

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