Return to Patient Stories

Damiya Takes on Down Syndrome, Heart Problems and Leukemia with Help of Team ACH

May 26, 2016

Damiya Smith, now 13 years old, was born with Down syndrome and a related heart condition that required her to undergo major heart surgery at Arkansas Children's Hospital when she was only 3 months old.

Damiya's mother, Anita Robinson, says, "The outcome of that surgery was a success and she came home a few months later with no heart medication and continued as a normal healthy adventurous little girl."

Damiya's family was hopeful that her significant medical complications were over, but unfortunately, her health battles would continue. In April 2013, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that quickly gets worse if not treated.

"She went to the doctor for symptoms of a stomach virus," explained Robinson, but after three days of escalating pain – pain so severe Damiya couldn't walk – the Robinsons knew they were facing something much more serious than a stomach virus.

Dr. Shelley Crary, Damiya's oncologist, said, "Patients with Down syndrome are at higher risk of developing some forms of cancer, especially leukemias."

"The whole family was very scared and prayerful" after learning of Damiya's diagnosis, said Robinson.

Of the treatment process for a patient with Down syndrome, Dr. Crary explained that "patients with Down syndrome are more sensitive to some of the chemotherapy medications that we use and require reduction in the dose and/or special monitoring for side effects."

Robinson says, "Before Damiya was diagnosed, she was a very active child who enjoyed going to school, doing her homework, playing games on her Wii, running, jumping and controlling everyone's DVD players in the house!"

The leukemia and subsequent treatments caused Damiya's immune system to weaken which resulted in major complications and her rapidly declining health. Damiya ended up in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at ACH.

"Her doctors worked diligently to bring her back to health, and it was a long battle," recalls Robinson. "For more than 160 days we prayed and accepted that maybe God needed her more than we did."

Damiya, feeling better, traverses the hallways of ACH during her stay in the PICU.

Damiya did recover after "three agonizing months" in the ACH PICU, said Robinson, and she is now in remission and getting ready to attend school again this fall as a seventh grader. "She is getting better every day, and I know that we still have a few more steps to take," says Robinson.

Now that she is back home and in remission, Damiya enjoys going to Walmart and Chuck E Cheese with her family, activities such as picnics and watching television. In fact, Dr. Crary can attest to Damiya's love of television: "Damiya is a very opinionated young lady and is quick to let you know how she feels about something, especially with a strong 'NO!' She loves her movies and doesn't like to be bothered much when she is watching."

The Robinson family is just fine letting Damiya take control of the TV remote these days. "My family is happy she is back at home and we have no doubt that miracles do happen at ACH!"

Featured Expertsarticles-icon