Sixteen-year-old Destany has lived a life full of cheer.
“We started Destany in a tumbling class when she was five years old,” said Waleska, Destany’s mother. “She was immediately hooked and had a real talent and passion for it.”
Over the years, Destany participated on various competitive cheer teams. She joined a local team, Stars Vipers, at age 14 and won a national championship with the squad in 2015. While she has been successful throughout her 11-year cheerleading career, her hard work has not come without a few set-backs.
Destany endured a stress fracture in her back at age 12. Her pediatrician referred her to Dr. Shaylon Rettig, who currently serves as section chief of sports medicine at CHRISTUS Children’s and assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.
“I wore a back brace for three months and did physical therapy to recover after my back injury,” said Destany. “I love Dr. Rettig; he is so thorough and helpful, and really easy to talk to. He has been my physician for several years now. I go straight to him any time I have an injury.”
In November 2015, Destany was just beginning her sophomore year at Brennan High School, where she is a member of the varsity cheerleading squad.
“It was November 6; a game day. We don’t normally practice before football games, but on this particular day, we did,” said Destany. “Everything was normal until I woke up on the ground – I don’t even remember the fall.”
Destany, a flyer and stunter on the squad, was at the top of a pyramid when it unexpectedly collapsed, causing Destany to fall to the ground.
“When I opened my eyes, I didn’t know what was going on around me. I tried to walk it off, but I couldn’t think straight,” Destany said.
She soon started feeling tingling in her hands and feet and couldn’t see. The coach sent her to the school nurse, who called an ambulance. Destany was transported to a local hospital and was told she had endured a severe concussion and spinal shock.
Destany was released from the hospital three days later and immediately returned to Dr. Shaylon Rettig.
“When Destany came into my office, she was unable to walk on her own,” said Dr. Rettig. “She had major loss of motor strength on the right side of her body, almost like she had a stroke. While her symptoms showed signs of a brain injury, there was no evidence on CT and MRI scans.”
Destany couldn’t walk, write, or feel with her right hand. She had trouble reading and suffered from severe headaches. She was on bed rest for one month, and home-bound from December 2015 to April 2016.
Destany underwent extensive occupational and physical therapy for several months to work on her strength, relearning simple skills like walking up the stairs, cutting food, and gripping with her right hand. She also practiced reading and writing.
“Walking was my biggest struggle. After a few months, I started feeling my hand more, and was able to walk longer distances,” said Destany. “I still struggled with balance, but over time, I started making more progress. I was finally feeling like I was getting back to my normal self.”
Destany made a dramatic recovery. She started half-day trials at school, and was well enough to go back full-time. She had one final visit with Dr. Rettig before being cleared.
“After several months of work with physical and occupational therapists, Destany had made a lot of progress fairly quickly. The fact that she has made such a remarkable recovery is incredible,” said Dr. Rettig. “I performed one more assessment, which included a neurological exam, motor exam, concussion computerized testing, and visual motor testing, and there were no signs of any deficit. She was back to her pre-injury levels and no longer required academic accommodations. In April 2016, I released her to return to cheering, with some restrictions.”
Destany started slowly, going through the motions of routines, and reducing jumping and tumbling. For her safety, she was no longer allowed to perform stunting or flying.
“I have to restrict myself,” said Destany. “I still get headaches if I am doing too many handstands or spinning during a dance routine, but I’m learning to be more careful. Hopefully I can return to stunting by the end of the year.”
Today, Destany is happy, healthy, and continues to get stronger. She finished her sophomore year this spring and looks forward to her junior year. She has big dreams.
“My biggest dream is to go to Florida and win nationals as a member of the Top Gun All-Stars one day,” said Destany. “I still have a few more years to get there, but if anything happens, I know I have Dr. Rettig.”
“I think Destany’s passion and motivation to get back to doing what she loves played a big factor in her recovery process,” said Dr. Rettig. “Concussions are mysterious; the slightest injury could trigger a concussion, and we don’t always know how our bodies are going to respond or recover. In most cases, people fully recover. Soccer, basketball, football, and cheerleading are among the fall and winter school sports that put children at the highest risk for concussions. Unfortunately, injuries happen, but I am here to make sure our kids are restored to good health; that is my passion.”