Ailment inspires student to help others

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — When Allyson Nunn was born, doctors told her parents she wouldn’t live past the age of 3.
It’s safe to say they were wrong.
This week, the 18-year-old Salisbury native will graduate from Salisbury High School as an honor student, despite battling nevus, a skin disease that attacks the internal organs. The disease is dormant at times, but is always visible on the skin as lesions.
More than 70 percent of Nunn’s body was covered with the lesions at birth. Her mother, Cynthia Nunn, said her entire back was disguised by the dark marks, which meant surgery was necessary to remove the affected skin. Doctors removed almost all of the skin from her back and used a cell bank to grow a skin graft.
Since that surgery, Nunn has had at least 30 more surgeries because the skin on her back doesn’t grow back on its own. Each surgery can put her in the hospital anywhere from a week to four weeks.
“The longest surgery she’s ever had was three and a half years ago, it was about 11 hours,” Cynthia Nunn said. “They discovered she had scoliosis, too, so they had to put rods in her back.”
After that surgery, Nunn was homebound for the majority of her freshman year.
“When she was homebound we had to adjust her schedule to include more electives, so when she came back to school the following year she had to double up on academic classes,” Ruby Steele, Nunn’s guidance counselor, said.
And Steele said Nunn didn’t just take the easy road, she tackled honors classes.
“She strives to do everything more than,” she said.
Cynthia Nunn said although her daughter struggles with pain, she never lets it stand in her way.
“She has always been a kid that never showed any fear,” she said. “She’s never been a complainer.”
Nunn is a member of the National Honor Society, a mentor for Me Time, vice president of Tru Club and a volunteer tutor at her church. She also holds down a part-time job at Bojangle’s.
Steele said Nunn has been a leader and inspiration to her peers.
“I think what makes Allyson stand out is that she has a sense of who she is,” she said. “Maybe she is different from everyone else … I think they see her as someone who says, ‘Yes, I am different, but I am special.’ ”
Nunn will attend North Carolina Central University in the fall, where she plans to major in nursing. Her goal is to become a pediatric or neonatal nurse.
“I think I’m drawn to it because I’ve been around it all my life,” she said. “Nurses really help younger kids.”
Nunn’s parents, Cynthia and Eugene, said her graduation Saturday is a reason for celebration.
“I just want people to know that if you listen to man on a daily basis, you’re selling yourself short because God has the last say on everything,” Cynthia said. “I look at Allyson daily and realize that anything is possible in life if you keep your faith strong.
“God is able to do anything, and Allyson is proof.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.