Letter to the Editor: AB’s last chapter at Canton Academy

  • 01/18/2022, 11:00 AM (update 01/19/2022, 08:41 AM)
  • Canton News
Ainsley Belle Burke

By Elaine and Ainsley Belle Burke

Beginning the last semester of her senior year, Ainsley Belle Burke (AB) at Canton Academy is looking to the future with a degree in the medical field. At the age of six, her story of strength, faith and perseverance began on May 27, 2011, at approximately 2:20 in the afternoon. She was on the playground with classmates wrapping up the last day of school. 

While playing on the monkey bars, AB slipped and fell, a fall that was so hard that, when she hit the ground, her left arm shattered, and baby pea-gravel was embedded into her tiny skin from her neck down to her hip. 

Her mom, Elaine Burke, worked in the elementary office and was on-site to facilitate the next steps. Once Ainsley Belle arrived at the emergency room, physicians on call realized this was much more than a normal fractured arm. She was beginning to lose a pulse in the extremity and was airlifted to a local hospital for emergency surgery. 
Once in surgery, the team of specialists has to attach the muscle back around the bone and insert four pins. The break was called a supracondylar humerus fracture. Late into the first night at the hospital, Ainsley Belle was still in extreme pain and, unfortunately by morning, she had another emergency surgery, because compartment syndrome set in. The team again went back into her tiny little arm and had to open it up from shoulder to wrist. Due to this unforeseen complication, she would stay in the hospital for several weeks. She was attached to the wound vac machine and would have surgery every few days to close up the arm around an inch at a time. 

During this hospital stay, AB worked with several different disciplines in the hospital, from occupational therapy, physical therapy, play therapist, and many more. Roughly a month after the initial accident, AB was sent home to recover in the hot summer months in a cast all down her left arm. It was around this time that her parents noticed changes in her mood and her skin, and pain that was making her fall to her knees. Her team of doctors decided she needed to see a specialist at Vanderbilt to understand the pain management and search for a diagnosis. 

Once she arrived at Vanderbilt, AB was surrounded by the most caring physician and nurse in the anesthesiology pain management division. Her physician, Dr. Andrew Franklin, quickly ran her through a series of tests, and AB had an official diagnosis of CRPS Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. CRPS is severe pain that affects all areas of the body, and the pain is out of proportion to the injury. According to the “McGill pain scale, CRPS is the number one most painful disease. The pain is constant and spreads.”  With this diagnosis, she was sent home on numerous medications and would return a few weeks later for more surgeries, which included nerve blocks, plastic repair surgeries, and much more. 

During one of her trips to Vanderbilt, AB was selected for a trial run of home therapy that would later be published in the Vanderbilt’s Department of Anesthesiology annual journal. Dr. Franklin describes “that AB underwent a diagnostic ultrasound-guided stellate ganglion block, where she has a continuous brachial plexus catheter inserted, with the goal of interrupting the pain so she could begin physical therapy. She was sent home with a small, disposable infusion pump that allowed for therapy twice a day.” Dr. Franklin presented AB’s treatment case as a “Medically Challenging Case at the 2011 American Society of Anesthesiologists Annual Meeting.” 

Several months after the accident and after over sixteen surgeries, which included several nerve blocks, AB was still in crippling pain and unable to attend school full time. It was at this time her family and friends rallied around her, and several fundraisers were developed in the Madison area and also in her parents’ hometown of Natchez. 
One local fundraiser was “Angels for Ainsley,” where she was working with a local artist, Hannah Williams, on weekly therapies, and together they designed a shirt with scripture. It was at this time her brother Spencer was an elementary student at Canton Academy. The elementary administration decided to help the family and allowed a flyer to go home with each student to ask them to purchase a shirt to help with expenses to Boston. The students ordered either a pink or teal shirt, and the fundraiser was a huge success. 

More than thirteen months after the accident, her family was sent to Children’s Hospital of Boston for a week-long round of testing from every department. Her physicians at Boston, Vanderbilt, and local physician Rebekah Moulder at St. Dominic’s all worked together to help AB with her pain, treatments, and therapies. With CRPS, the pain stages are very aggressive and slowly taper off over time, and the patient goes into remission. Over the last few years, AB has worked closely with Dr. Moulder and her staff to understand when the pain elevates and when to continue medications, therapies, and possible new surgeries. 

As her parents, we have seen AB overcome so much at such a young age. Canton Academy has embraced not only her but her family, as well. She took a leap of faith and started her journey at CA, and we will forever be grateful. Canton Academy has taught her through adversity, with faith, family, and, of course, friends, you can achieve anything because with “God all things are possible.” Ainsley Belle would like to thank the administration, faculty, and staff at Canton Academy for all the help these last few years and for giving her a safe environment to let her light shine. 

She was selected Junior HoCo maid, inducted into the National Honor Society, an all-star student, on the varsity cheer team, softball, and track team. She is also active in Madison County Civinettes, where she currently is the Hope Hollow Chair and Canton Academy school representative. She competed in her first pageant last spring and was selected as Miss Magnolia Hospitality, Teen Spirit of Madison. She has worked last summer at the Canton Academy summer program, and spends her free time babysitting and helping out at Lee Hawkins Realty, Inc. 

She will be attending school at Mississippi State University, pursuing a degree in educational psychology and then either physical therapy or occupational therapy, where she can work with children who have similar injuries and conditions. 




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