Purple Day

Published 10:43 pm Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dynasty Kendred was decked out in her purple jumpsuit.

Her teacher, Lori Brunson, looked elegant in a purple print shirt.

But no one could match the ensemble of 7-year-old Katelynn Butler.

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The Booker T. Washington first grader was dressed head-to-toe in varying shades and hues of purples, ranging from her bright purple hat to her lavender shirt.

And that was fitting, since Katelynn was the reason many of her classmates and school staff members came to school Thursday morning in their purple best.

Thursday was Purple Day, a day where people around the world are asked to wear purple in order to raise awareness of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder, which is characterized by repeated seizures. It affects more than 50 million people worldwide.

One of them is Katelynn.

She suffered her first seizure when she was just nine months old. When she was 13 months old, she had 127 seizures in just one day. Her case is more unique in that some of her seizures cause her to stop breathing and require oxygen be administered. She sleeps with an apnea monitor that keeps track of her oxygen levels at night.

“We had many a day at CHKD,” Jo Lynn Butler, Katelynn’s mother, said.

Katelynn’s epilepsy is seemingly in control now, thanks to new medications and her VNS implant. The implant is a special device — similar to a pacemaker for the heart — that sends electric waves to Katelynn’s brain every five minutes.

She has not had a seizure in 10 months.

When Jo Lynn received an e-mail about the upcoming Purple Day, she thought it was a perfect opportunity for Katelynn and her classmates to help celebrate.

“You don’t hear much good news when it comes to epilepsy,” Jo Lynn said. “People are usually afraid of it, because all they know is seizures and scariness. But really and truly, these people are just like everyone else.”

After Jo Lynn brought in a copy of a flyer describing Purple Day and its purpose, Brunson helped get Katelynn’s classmates and fellow Booker T. staff members to participate.

While Katelynn does not speak much – she has the estimated learning level of a 3-year-old – Jo Lynn did say that the celebration was extra fitting because purple was Katelynn’s favorite color.

“She has come a long way in her short life and been through many painful procedures, but she still maintains her happy little personality,” Jo Lynn said.