It’s not that hospitals in the region didn’t want to help when Bette Wilson showed up with her sick daughter one recent summer evening. It’s that they weren’t sure quite how to.
Davina Wilson, 34, had stomach aches and was finding it hard to breathe. It was tricky for doctors to diagnose and treat her, however, because her body was smaller than a child’s.
Davina was born with primordial dwarfism, a rare condition affecting fewer than 200 people worldwide.
She eventually arrived at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, where she was accepted into the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU).
Proximity to its sister hospital — MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center — gave Tacoma General the confidence to admit Davina. The children’s hospital is directly adjacent and could provide Tacoma General’s doctors and nurses with the smaller equipment they required.
“The thing that impresses me the most is all the collaboration between Mary Bridge and Tacoma General,” said Davina’s father, Steve Wilson, at his daughter's bedside. “The nurses are all very loving, very caring. I think if anything they were fighting to take care of her; she was spoiled.”
Davina was treated, she improved and was released.
A few days later, she came back to Tacoma General with more acute symptoms of pneumonia and heart failure.
The CVICU readily readmitted her. They pulled together a team of Tacoma General and Mary Bridge medical leaders, including a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit intensivist, to work together and ensure Davina continued to receive the best care possible.
“Mary Bridge was nice enough to send us anything we needed, everything from a gown to oxygen tubing and emergency equipment,” said CVICU nurse manager Lescia Myers, who was on call at the time.
“Their intravenous therapy team came and placed Davina’s IV and we initiated a process so that if there was an emergency, Mary Bridge doctors would respond and we would be there for back-up care.”
Davina was born in New York City, full term but weighing just 1 pound, 15 ounces. Bette and Steve Wilson adopted her as a 10-month-old baby.
“We adopted Davina’s brother, Matthew, who is also a dwarf, but a different type of dwarf,” Steve Wilson said.
“We thought it would be nice if we could have another little one for him to identify with, so we adopted Davina through the Little People of America.”
Majewski osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type II, the specific condition afflicting Davina, is characterized by very short, though proportional, stature. The condition is inherited through mutated recessive genes from both parents.
Davina is 2 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 18 pounds. Apart from surgery to correct a curved spine when she was 12, she has not been sick until recently.
“She’s very healthy,” said her father. “She hasn’t had a lot of the health problems some of the other primordial dwarves have.”
Her parents say Davina’s special needs are not a burden and that they are the lucky ones for having her in their lives.
“She always seems to have a smile and be happy," said Bette Wilson.
Indeed, Davina was all smiles as she left Tacoma General, balloons tied to the back of her oversized wheelchair. As a departing comment, she said, “If there are kids that get sick, I hope they get better.”