Honor graduate’s life on hold; friend rallies to help

Published August 3, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Courtesy of Tracye Harned

Terra Tate, 18, of Enola has had ministrokes and is undergoing tests to determine the cause.

ENOLA — Terra Tate, 18, an athletic Mount Vernon-Enola High School honor graduate, was excited about going to college to become a nurse until she started having strange symptoms.

Although doctors are still working to find a diagnosis, Tate said, they have confirmed that she has had a series of ministrokes.

“That was kind of crazy,” Tate said. “Very crazy.”

Tate has been through a battery of tests and was hospitalized for a week in Little Rock. She received speech, physical and occupational therapy, and is undergoing rehabilitation as an outpatient as the tests continue.

“I’m still kind of having problems with — my speech, actually, is a lot better — expression, and that sort of thing. I know what I want to say sometimes, but I can’t actually get it out of my mouth.”

Tate was speaking by phone from her father’s home in Des Arc, where she stays during the week while her mother, Keri Henry of Enola, works.

Henry is a custodian at Bob Courtway Middle School in Conway and also drives a bus for the school. She had a third job working part time at Hobby Lobby but had to quit to help take care of her daughter.

The bills are mounting, and regardless of whether Tate has to have surgery, her condition is a financial strain on the single mother.

“She has her own insurance policy; it’s all on hers,” Henry said. “My school insurance is outrageous. There’s no telling what her doctor bills are. It is financially a burden. I have had some wonderful people helping out — more than I could ever imagine, more than I could ever say thanks for.”

Kendall Leggett, a friend and longtime classmate of Tate’s, stepped in and came up with the idea of a golf tournament, Henry said. Tee It up for Terra is scheduled for Aug. 15 at Greystone Country Club in Cabot.

Registration will begin at 7 a.m., and a shotgun start is set for 8:30 a.m. The entry fee is $75 per person and includes the green fee, a cart, lunch and automatic entry for door prizes. A silent auction will be held, and there will be contests to win other prizes.

Participants may contact Tracie Leggett at (501) 681-5400 or Kendall Leggett at (501) 499-1194 to preregister, to offer a sponsorship or to give a donation.

Kendall Leggett, 18, said she has been friends with Tate since elementary school.

“I’ve known her since she moved to Mount Vernon in second grade,” Kendall said.

“She’s always been really reliable and always straightforward, and she always sets good goals for herself, and she wants to be nurse,” Leggett said.

Leggett is a state-champion golfer, and Greystone became the Mount Vernon-Enola golf team’s home course last year, she said.

She said she hopes to have the tournament full — 25 teams — and she wants the fundraiser to make “as much as it can make” to help her friend.

“Oh, me. I can’t even thank them enough,” Tate said.

Tate, an only child, also said that her mother works hard to provide for her.

“I am blessed. I’m blessed with very good parents,” Tate said.

Henry said she never could have imagined that her 18-year-old daughter would have strokes and possibly a life-threatening condition.

“She was very normal, your average teenager,” Henry said. “She loved softball and was never sick, other than colds.”

Henry said her daughter’s symptoms started in April.

“She was not really losing her balance, but starting to drag her right leg.”

She was athletic and played softball for the high school team.

“She went to prom and everything and said she had a little bit of a problem during prom. She had to watch how she walked so she didn’t fall,” Henry said.

“Normally, it didn’t affect her school. One time it did,” Henry said.

She said her daughter’s math teacher noticed “that her schoolwork was not right, as far as her writing. It looked like chicken scratch.”

Henry said the school nurse called and said, “‘I think Terra needs to go to the doctor today.’”

Tate said her arm was numb.

“I couldn’t use it,” she said.

One physician thought it was her body reacting to a migraine without feeling the pain, and she received medication for that condition.

The medicine didn’t help, and Tate’s symptoms grew worse, her mother said.

“She worked with me here at school this summer and has the past two years. Her conditions were deteriorating,” Henry said.

“She was disoriented; she couldn’t as much as use a broom. It was kind of like her balance was off,” Henry said.

It scared both of them, Henry said.

“You go from a healthy kid to seeing your kid like this. … I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew something was going on.”

Tate’s parents took her to neurologists and hospitals trying to determine the underlying cause of the ministrokes.

“Everything has just been a whirlwind the past few months, trying to diagnose everything,” Henry said.

Tate was scheduled for another arteriogram last week.

“She just wants her life back to where she can be a normal teenager and go to college and be a nurse,” Henry said.

Tate said that’s exactly what she wants.

“I’m hopeful, very. Every day’s a new day,” she said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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