Destin Bootle turned five years old in October, 2013.
At the time of his birth, doctors were not convinced that he would live to see another day much less a year. With a due date of Jan. 3, 2009, Destin’s mother, Audra Parker-Bootle, had to undergo an emergency C-section exactly three months early at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).
He weighed two pounds, 10 ounces at birth.
Destin was transferred to PMH’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where he spent three months in an incubator fighting for his life. Audra said that it was then that her challenge as a mother began.
In the coming weeks, she was only allowed to visit him twice a day.
Initially, Destin experienced severe stomach distention, and to make matters worse, he contracted a blood fungus/blood disease that led to total dehydration. Needles were connected from Destin’s head to his toes, and because of the dehydration his veins collapsed, so he was not able to be given fluids.
Still, their most difficult challenges lay ahead.
Destin was scheduled to have three operations, but each time they were cancelled by his doctors. They explained to Audra that they could only do one course of treatment – maybe two – to combat the blood fungus he had picked up.
After two treatments, it was expected that major organ failure or brain damage would occur.
Faced with a grave decision, Audra was told that there was nothing else the doctors could do.
“They met me at the door, and said that Destin was not responding to anything,” Audra tearfully recounted. “They couldn’t find veins to give him the drips. He was about seven or eight weeks old, and he was laying there – just dried up.
“They didn’t know if he would see the next day, and I just stood there with tears running down my cheeks. I said to the doctors, ‘I hear you, but God has the last say.’”
One of the doctors suggested she pray, so that God would allow them to see just one vein.
“He said if Destin could get through the night, we would deal with the next day. I just looked at Destin, and my heart was broken.”
After much prayer, Audra decided to go ahead with the treatments. Destin did not respond to the first or second treatment, so she agreed to a third treatment.
A third treatment is unheard of, but it was the treatment that Destin responded to.
“It was uphill from there,” Audra exclaimed. “He rallied extremely well, and was transferred to the Special Care Unit.”
Their troubles were still not over.
Destin was also challenged with receiving milk because there was nothing on the market that his fragile body tolerated. His doctor recommended Nutramigen, which costs about $48 a can for 10 ounces of formula.
He was able to drink the Nutramigen, but Audra’s high spirits would only last for a short time before another setback sent little Destin back to the Neonatal Unit for four weeks. During that time, she received her share of early morning calls that made her heart – and time – stand still.
“They called me and told me they didn’t want me to be surprised when I got there, and he wasn’t there. There were babies that did not make it while he was there, but he just kept hanging on.”
When she wasn’t reading the Book of Psalms to Destin, she would sing: “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.”
A feeling of peace began to resonate within her.
Even when Destin was at his worse, as long as he moved his foot, she knew he was alright. One day, he was not moving his foot. Intuitively, Audra knew something else was wrong, but thankfully, Destin was discharged from the hospital three months later weighing four pounds.
Audra later discovered that as a result of the treatment and challenges faced by Destin, there was something slightly different about his left foot. This led to a series of follow up visits to doctors at the Neurology Clinic, and Neonatology Clinic. Destin had to have screenings done at the Neurological Development Center [NDC], and then they were able to return to Abaco.
Her strong faith in God would help her get through the next two and half consecutive years of seeing specialists and attending clinic for Destin’s therapy every four to six weeks in Nassau.
In 2010, she made a decision to visit Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale.
Destin was officially diagnosed cerebral palsy / spastic diplegia, which only affected his left lower extremity. She was told by a local Bahamian neurologist, and Dr. Stephen Storer, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, that Destin had suffered some brain damage.
“Outside of that, the boy is brilliant – he’s absolutely brilliant,” Audra beamed. “But he was literally taught how to creep by one of the professionals at NDC; they had to teach him to creep, they had to teach him to sit down – all the things that’s naturally instinctive for other children, he had to learn how to do.
“I watched him, and I cried because it seemed to me like he was suffering with them having to teach him…he cried and he cried… it was hard for him and it was painful. I really credit Miss May at NDC because she was just wonderful.”
Audra said that instead of creeping, Destin used to pull with one arm and drag the other leg. However, he learned how to creep and how to walk, and at nine months, he was talking.
“He spoke early, but he had to learn how to do everything else.”
Destin still visits an Orthopedic Specialist and goes once a year for screening and updates at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. He visits Dynamic Orthopedic to be fitted for his braces twice a year, and he requires night time and day-time braces. Only the muscles in his right leg developed, so he lacks muscle toning in his left leg.
“Unless some form of a miracle happens, and I pray that it does, Destin will wear some form of bracing perhaps for the rest of his life for maintenance.”
Destin’s “survivor personality” made it easy for his mother to travel with him, and he never fussed about going to the doctor.
“In his mind, it’s like he understood what had to be done,” she shared. “He has been a fighter.”
Looking back, when Audra was six weeks along in her pregnancy, she remembered visiting Dr. Francis Biney because she had concerns. Because her pregnancy was considered high risk, she had to leave the island. She spent the duration of her pregnancy in Nassau attending doctors every week. Along the way, she had several hospital emergencies, and six weeks prior to giving birth to Destin, she was admitted to PMH.
Throughout her pregnancy, Audra would make a note of everything that happened in her journal. Through the trying times, Audra committed to singing spiritual hymns, prayer and reading Scriptures.
Convinced her unborn child was a girl, Audra began calling him Alissa Jordan up until she was five months pregnant. When the ultrasound confirmed that she was having a boy, she settled on the name Destin after her last hospital admission.
“I came up with the name Destin after being admitted to hospital with all the challenges that we were having trying to save this child; he was just determined to make it,” Audra explained. “I feel like he was determined to help me get through, and I wanted a name that would be significant and something that would remind him of where God had brought him from, and that he was destined to be here, and destined for great things. And so hence his name is Destin Joshua Jordan Bootle.”
Audra was convinced during that time that God had assigned a guardian angel in the form of a female doctor, who went above and beyond her call of duty to care for her. She would check on Audra periodically, and pleaded for her to get into the operating theatre when it was time.
According to Audra, the doctor’s actions saved her baby’s life.
To date, he has had two surgeries due to umbilical hernia and he had an emergency surgery two years ago. Another surgery was repeated, and he was scheduled to undergo a third surgery in August.
Destin is currently in K-5 at Little Darlings Academy, and he was head boy for two years in a row in K-3 and K-4.
“He is doing extremely well, and he is now able to run, walk, hop, skip and jump – you know, he is a little tumbleweed.”
Audra attributes Destin’s continued development to ongoing physical therapy for the past five to six months with a therapist at Major Changes Rehab Center, who works in partnership with Integrated Medical Center. Destin receives manual physical therapy treatments a minimum of three days per week for one hour.
When Destin started therapy, he was not able to stand on his left foot or his toes, he was not able to balance on his left foot, he was unable to jump with both feet equally, and he was not able to hop on his left foot.
Audra said the therapist has essentially been teaching Destin’s left leg what to do so that it becomes a habit.
“I am grateful to have physical therapy here on the island because care, patience and professionalism given by the owner and staff of Major Changes Rehab is paramount,” Audra said.
Although, she lost a lot during Destin’s journey, Audra said it has been worth it.
“I am noting how awesome God is, and that there is nothing that is impossible. I am grateful and want to take this opportunity to celebrate this gift of life that God has given to me, and to publicly thank all those who supported me even up to today. I thank God for my family, and my mom, who has been my pillar of strength.
“I want to encourage other mothers and families going through the same situation, or facing the same battle. The road is not easy, the challenges may be great, but the reward is greater. Stay in the fight; help is available. It is possible with God’s help to survive it.”
Audra gave a special thank you to her husband Desmond Bootle for flying back and forth to see them because it was a sacrificial experience that put a lot of stress on their marriage. She thanked her mother for her great support, and gave another special thank you to all of her family, her brothers and sisters especially Sherlene Parker-Smith and Bishop Burnell Parker. She was grateful to her entire church family of Revival Time Pentecostal Church in Crown Haven for their prayers and financial support while she was in Nassau.
Audra expressed gratitude to her niece Kimberly Bain, who sacrificed for her and ensured she attended her hospital or clinic visits each week; and to Grammy G, who accompanied her during the majority of her visits at the hospital. Finally, she profusely thanked Miss May at the Neurological Development Center; Dr. Steve Lochan, Consultant Neonatologist at Princess Margaret Hospital; and the entire medical staff at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at PMH.