Holiday Brunch salutes young woman of courage

December 7, 2006

The third annual Holiday Brunch to benefit The University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital will honor 11-year-old Déjà King at American Girl Place at 8 a.m., Sunday, Dec. 10.

Two years ago, a rare autoimmune disease called Cogan's syndrome took Déjà's hearing. Her mother, Dee Dee Burke, first noticed something awry when Déjà developed vision problems; her balance seemed off; and she didn't notice the phone ringing.

"I believe she couldn't hear long before telling anyone," Burke said. "She thought it would go away and learned to lip read." The Parkside Academy sixth grader became so good at reading lips, she was able to maintain As and Bs on her report card despite her handicap.

Through 18 months of health issues and family financial difficulties, Déjà prevailed with an optimistic attitude. Her mother said, "I don't know what I would have done if she wasn't so strong." Today, Déjà has a cochlear implant that allows her to hear in one ear.
"Déjà handled her illness with grace and exceptional courage," said Dana Suskind, pediatric surgeon at Comer Children's Hospital. "Her perseverance and joy-filled spirit is an inspiration to people of all ages."

Organized by the Comer Children's Hospital Auxiliary Board, the event (formerly known as the American Girl Holiday Brunch) includes private shopping and brunch. Guests will receive posters of the American Girl's new made-for-TV movie, Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front.

Michelle Obama, vice president for community affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center, will emcee. The two previous award recipients are Megan Schillerstrom, a ten-year-old cancer survivor, and Baylie Owen, a seven-year-old patient with Chiari malformation, a genetic condition that typically causes excruciating headaches.
American Girl Place is located at 111 E. Chicago Ave. The event is open to the public. Tickets cost $65 per person and can be purchased by contacting Amy Wilkinson at 773-834-0180 or awilkinson@peds.bsd.uchicago.edu. Ticket proceeds and ten percent of merchandise sales will benefit Comer Children's Hospital.

Media interested in attending or wishing to set up interviews should contact Theresa Carson at 773-702-6241 or theresa.carson@uchospitals.edu.

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