Young disabled girl finds help at Triple T

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Katelynn Butler, who has epilepsy, works on her flexibility with head coach Tyrone Burks at the Triple T Sports Center. (Titus Mohler)

“When Katelynn was 20 months old, she had 127 seizures within 24 hours, or they stopped count at the 127th and they said she’d probably never walk, she’d never talk,” Katelynn’s mother, Jo Lynn Butler said. “We brought her home, and she was a baby again.”

Butler suspects the doctors at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters either thought Katelynn would remain in a vegetative state or would not live because they had never seen a case of epilepsy like hers before.

“And her doctors say all the time that, ‘We handle difficult cases,’ but she is definitely one of their most difficult,” Butler said. “They’ve talked to Johns Hopkins, they’ve talked to many hospitals trying to figure out what medicines work, and they’re always having to change medicines. Her seizures are just hard to control. But she’s a happy kid.”

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Tyrone Burks and Triple T are no small part of the reason for Katlelynn’s happiness, her mother said. The seizures prevent Katelynn from doing so many things, but when it came to gymnastics, Burks just told her, “Bring her out and see if she can do it.”

“I just didn’t know he did anything with special needs kids, but he has got all kinds of patience,” Butler said.

“I had a little boy that had Down syndrome that I worked with,” Burks recalled. “He had problems walking, and they said that he would be delayed walking, and I worked with him. He was young, he was like two years old, something like that and just trying to strengthen his legs and stuff. It kind of started with that.”

Burks was working with another disabled girl who is a few years older than Katelynn when he invited Jo Lynn to bring her daughter. Since then, the improvement in Katelynn’s motor skills, coordination, and concentration has been dramatic.

“She listens a lot better, her concentration is better,” he said. “She’s a lot stronger, because we do a lot of things like with hanging and pushing with the arms.”

“A lot of times they don’t look at their feet, so they kind of walk around and (I) just get them to concentrate on where they’re going,” he said. “The rolling — that I try to teach so if they ever fall, that they learn how to roll, instead of just falling flat.”

“She gets speech therapy, physical therapy at school, but nothing has done for her what this has done,” Butler said.

And the doctors could not be happier.

“They’re very happy with her being here, because Katelynn is 11, but she’s on about a 5-year-old understanding, so she’s way behind,” Butler said. “It keeps her active. She learns slowly, so we don’t know how far Katelynn’s going to go in life, but she gets there eventually.”

There are a lot of things in school that Katelynn knows — like her ABCs, her colors — but her brain does not cooperate with her when she tries to put them down on paper. This is a source of great frustration to her, but her problems melt away when she comes to Triple T.

“We’ve been here three years. She does her birthday party here, everything. And every day, she asks, ‘Can I come to Triple T? Can I come to Triple T? Can I see Tyrone?’” Butler said.

Butler said Triple T is one of the few places where Katelynn can just be a regular kid.

For Burks, what makes his role satisfying is simple: “Just seeing them happy,” he said. “Just knowing that they’re having fun, (that) they like it is the biggest thing and just seeing the progression.”

Both of these things are a source of encouragement and inspiration to Katelynn herself, and to her mother and anyone who is a witness to it.

“She’s had all kind of physical therapy and just working with her at home mostly,” she said. “So, the fact that she’s able to do what she does today is a miracle.”