Kayden Vinson, 3, loves kicking off her shoes and playing with her dad's beard. You'd never know this playful toddler has struggled with seizures since she was seven-months-old.
"We were sitting down having something to eat and her head kind of nodded forward a couple times and thought it looked strange, but I thought maybe she was just sleepy," recalled her mother Jessica Vinson.
Within 24 hours Kayden and her family were at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital dealing with an epilepsy diagnosis.
After 14 different medications and various therapies, Kayden still had nearly 20 "events" a day lasting as long as 30 minutes and consisting of numerous seizures. It made normal developing – like learning to talk - a challenge.
"She knew what a fork was. You could stab the food for her, put it in her hand and she would eat it and throw the fork off to the side," said Kayden's father Jason Vinson, "Every day you try to teach her something and she didn't necessarily learn it. It seemed like every day we were counting how many times she had seizures."
Doctors recommended brain surgery. Kayden's parents debated the idea for one year, thinking back to a painful time when they took their infant, born premature, off life support. They finally moved forward with the surgery when one of Kayden's "drop" seizures scared them.
"She had a seizure but she was facing the tub," recalled Jason, "If I hadn't – she had a ponytail in – and if I hadn't pulled her ponytail, her teeth and upper jaw would have hit the edge of the tub."
Kayden had surgery in August, and two days later doctors and her parents said she began interacting in ways she never had before.
"She would genuinely look at you, reach her arm around your neck and give you a big ol' kiss," said Jessica, "To me, that was even better than seeing her take her first step."
Lai Brooks, Program Director for Epilepsy Patient Services, said, "She was laughing more, she was getting up, walking around just doing things we just haven't seen her be as engaged as she was before so it was very exciting to be able to see that."
The three-year-old also was able to retain new skills. Jason said, "She got a pancake breakfast and she basically took her fork, held it the whole time, actually went to stab the food while we helped her with that she ate and didn't drop the fork the whole time."
While Kayden is still learning to talk, Jessica said she is thrilled her daughter can now express her emotions and personality in other ways with them. She thanks Le Bonheur's doctors, nurses and families for helping them.
"Everybody is so kind and you don't realize until you go through something like this that we have some of the best doctors in the country here," said Jessica.
The Vinsons said remaining a strong family unit helped them face their struggles. They also wrote down positive moments and fun times in their journal that logged Kayden's seizures to keep an uplifting outlook.
Le Bonheur Children's Hospital's Epilepsy Program is celebrating their one year anniversary since being created by Brooks and other Le Bonheur employees. The program brings staff and families with epileptic children together for support.