Reason to celebrate; Teen overcomes movement disorder

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, May 26, 2012

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ALL SMILES - Slidell High School junior Jessica McClure shows approval of her hair, fixed by longtime friend and hairdresser Sam Slate, for her school prom. As a "Cook's baby," McClure also attended a prom at Cook Children's Health Care System in Fort Worth. Messenger photo by Andrew May

Jessica McClure spent most of Friday afternoon primping for a special night.

After a hair appointment at Sam’s Hairquarters in Decatur and makeup at the Estee Lauder counter at Beall’s, McClure was home to put on her princess ball gown, the color of a “blue and teal love child,” as she described it.

SPECIAL TOKEN - Jessica McClure shows the corsage she received for her junior prom May 18. Submitted photo by Blake Hannah

A photo shoot ensued as her date, University of North Texas freshman and family friend Blake Hannah is a photographer.

Afterward, the couple was off to the Slidell High School prom at the Petroleum Club in Fort Worth.

But it wasn’t McClure’s first fairytale-like night this year.

In April, the Greenwood resident attended Prom Night at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

“I’m a Cook’s baby,” the 17-year-old said. “I made my first visit at just a few hours old.”

McClure was born Dec. 17, 1994, at Denton Regional Medical Center to Russell and Lanette. After the cord prolapsed and cut off oxygen to the couple’s youngest daughter, doctors performed an emergency C-section.

“Things started going downhill and downhill fast,” the younger McClure said. “That’s what I’ve been told.”

Within hours, she was en route to Cook Children’s in Fort Worth.

“It was foggy and rainy, so they couldn’t get the helicopter up,” her mother, Lanette, said. “I was in the hospital for about 24 hours, and then I was released to be able to go be with her.”

Jessica added: “My mom gave a lot for me mentally and physically, and she didn’t even get to hold me until she was released from the hospital in Denton. But then she’d be up there every day, rocking me and singing me to sleep.”

McClure remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for a week before she was released to go home. But that wasn’t without the diagnosis of cerebral palsy with dystonia, a movement disorder that causes involuntary muscle contractions that lead to twisting and repetitive movements that are sometimes painful.

To help control those spells, McClure returned to Cook’s 16 years later for a deep brain stimulation March 10, 2010.

During the procedure, surgeons inserted a battery pack in her chest that sends electrical stimulation through an extension (an insulated wire that is passed under the skin of the head, neck and shoulder) to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremors, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website.

Neurosurgeons use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scanning to identify and locate the exact target within the brain where electrical nerve signals generate the symptoms and place electrodes (thin, insulated wires) there.

McClure was awake for six of the eight hours it took to complete the procedure.

“She had to be awake to be sure the electrodes were in the right place,” her mother said.

PROM DATE - University of North Texas freshman and family friend Blake Hannah accompanied Jessica McClure to the Slidell High School prom May 18 at the Petroleum Club in Fort Worth. "He's a nice, Christian boy, and I knew he would treat me the right way going to a formal event," McClure said. Messenger photo by Blake Hannah

McClure was only the 11th patient to undergo the procedure at Cook’s. For that and for her continued success thereafter, she was named to a two-year term on the hospital’s Youth Advisory Council in October.

“I get to participate in their events, help at fundraisers, organize crafts, parties and reunions,” she said. “We even brought about the new Child Life Zone recreational area. That was fun being a part of that.”

Since the procedure, McClure has shown exceptional success – learning to walk and establishing her independence, just as her parents have raised her.

LIKE FAMILY - Jessica McClure hugs her hairdresser and longtime family friend Sam Slate after Slate finished dolling McClure up for the Slidell High School prom. "We're like family," McClure said. "She is the very best." Messenger photo by Andrew May

“They don’t want me to always have to depend on them or my sister (Jennifer),” she said. “I get ready for school on my own – 10 or 15 minutes to throw on my clothes. None of this primping stuff,” she said as makeup artist Patti Hargrave dabbed glitter along her cheekbones.

“My parents made me strive to be on my own and work hard to get better. I did physical therapy and occupational therapy every day. And I’m so glad they pushed me like that.”

Just like she’s thankful for the communitywide support she and her family have received through the strain of her medical condition.

“My grandmother (Allie Belle Florida) is a saint,” McClure said. “She raised me, and the rest of Wise County practically, so I wouldn’t have to be in daycare. And while I was in the hospital both times, people in Slidell, Greenwood and Decatur were right there showing their support in every way they could. I know they love me and care about me, and it means the world to me.”

Even despite the abundance of support, McClure admits to having “pity party moments.” But her determination quickly overshadows any negativity.

“I do have moments when I ask, ‘why is it me?,'” she said. “But thank goodness I have a great family and friends that help me get out of those moods fast. If you don’t laugh and smile, you cry. Personally, I like to laugh.”

“If people had the attitude that she has, their life would be awesome,” said hairdresser Sam Slate, arranging McClure’s head of curls, sending her off to another magical night.

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