Local News

Surgery at Duke offers gift of life to ill child

Posted December 24, 2009

There are no gifts under the tree in the Huntersville home of Antoine and Trena Burgess. They and their four children lost nearly everything while trying to save their daughter's life.

The Burgesses face foreclosure and a mountain of medical bills, but they got a priceless gift last week when their daughter, Anisa, underwent surgery at Duke University Hospital.

Family puts a face on the plight of the uninsured Family puts a face on the plight of the uninsured

Anisa, 8, has suffered seizures since 2004. She would undergo as many as 60 debilitating attacks each day.

"You think to yourself, 'My God, I don't know what to do.' And that's the worst feeling when your child is looking at you," Trena said.

When the family reached out for help, they found the doors closed. They lost their health insurance after Anisa's seizures started and could not get coverage due to her pre-existing condition, Antoine said.

He left his six-figure job to help care for the family's three other children and sought treatment for Anisa from various doctors and hospitals.

For five years, the bills piled up. They tapped retirement funds, savings, credit cards.

"We were trying to feed our kids and pay our bills like everyone else," Antoine said. "It got to a point where you don't have anymore."

"Had we had this coverage, I wouldn't be sitting here with you with our house in foreclosure, without our family car."

Finally, the family came to Duke.

"They were the first ones who looked at me and said, 'We can help Anisa,'" Trena said.

Officially, Anisa had cortical dysplasia, an abnormality that develops in the womb. Neurons in the brain get too big and misfire, sending signals which can cause seizures.

Anisa hasn't had a seizure since surgeons removed part of her brain.

There are no Christmas gifts at the Burgess household, but they got the one gift that truly matters -- a chance at life for Anisa.

"Christmas is one of those things where it's about the children," Antoine Burgess said.

"Our gift is Anisa is alive and well, and she's going to walk out on her destiny."

The Burgesses have not gotten the bill from Anisa's latest surgery yet and she faces more rehabilitation and treatment.

But for this Christmas, seeing her sleep soundly is enough. "Our daughter now sleeps for the first time," Antoine said. "And my wife and I sleep for the first time."

"You just stay focused on the goal," Trena Burgess said.


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  • invisible69mailx Dec 25, 2009

    it is strange that mr burgess left his $100k job to care for the other children. as primary breadwinner for this family, it appears his move was cause for loss of their health insurance. i m not sure the entire story is being told.

    in fact there was an antoine burgess fired from the hendrick automotive organization back in 2005, for reasons not clear in media reports i read. same burgess???.......i dont know. but the time frame is about the same. again, we re not getting the entire story about the family s dilemma.

    in any case, there is lots of reason to have feelings for the burgess child. however the fathers action definitely has had negative effect on the family and his child.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Dec 25, 2009

    lauraleigh: "I'm sorry, but I'm confused. Is this a story about a little girl getting help at Duke, or a propaganda plug for socialized health care?"

    Both. You already knew the answer.

  • ladyinblue72 Dec 25, 2009

    Hope the surgery is a success. Thoughts and prayers to the girl and her family and friends.

  • ladyblue Dec 25, 2009

    blondie--The people as myself are in no way belittling the family or the trials of his family in what they have gone through. It is just that the story itself is talking more of the financial woes than the illness and miraculously surgery of the child. Of course no one wishes any ill to anyone and we all know that many have lost their homes and etc to hard times. But we all felt also that this took away from the child's illness. No more no less. I will keep the family in my prayers that he child has had its last seizure ever and that her rehab will be successful.

  • ladyblue Dec 25, 2009

    There are no Christmas gifts at the Burgess household, but they got the one gift that truly matters -- a chance at life for Anisa

    Materialist gifts are man made. the miracle of finding someone to help your daughter is your miracle.

    I also agree this story is more propaganda than the trials of wht thee child has had to deal with. It's never wise to quit a 6 figure job when the economy is this bad.

  • TriangleMommy Dec 25, 2009

    Excuse me Blondie - but this kind of story IS happening to many people I know. I have many friends who are suffering from intractable epilepsy and I know of several people who have had similar surgeries this year (in fact I know of a little boy who just had surgery this week). Sadly my own daughter is not a candidate for this surgery and continues to suffer.

    This article is a JOKE since the headline mentions surgery to give the child life to ill child and then mentions nothing of the child's plight, or her hope for a new life. The article is pure propaganda.

  • wat63 Dec 24, 2009

    "Sounds like Obama sent in this story!"

    You are one shallow individual.

  • blackdog Dec 24, 2009

    This is the story of too many families. I KNOW. The obstruction of the republican party ploy is now known. It is so obvious they are trying to gain power by confusing the masses with their fear rhetoric and emotional panderings.

  • blondiet2 Dec 24, 2009

    It amazes me how some people can read this story, which believe it or not, happens to families all over the US every day, and have the audacity to make these claims of hidden agenda instead of being grateful that a similar situation isn't happening to them. That is unfortunatly why America is what it is today, too many selfish people. I hope the best for that family and any other family that are going through the same ordeal.

  • SkepticalGirl Dec 24, 2009

    I'm glad for the little girl. But why would her daddy quit a 6 figure job when he has a family to support because one child got sick? Didn't that make it worse for everyone?