When four-year-old Aliondra Cady got sick and didn’t get better, her mom, Bonnie Garrison, knew something was gravely wrong. “I knew something wasn’t right,” she says, explaining that multiple tests didn’t pinpoint the problem, though her daughter was sleeping most of the day and had lost the ability to swallow, talk or balance. “Everything kept coming up fine. The blood work showed no sign of infection. They couldn’t find out what it was.”
After being transported by Northwest MedStar to Sacred Heart hospital and an MRI, Garrison says they determined Aliondra had gotten sick with a cold virus and then her brain had reacted to the virus and attacked itself. “She was almost like an infant, wetting her bed. She’d moan in her sleep but couldn’t talk to me. She couldn’t walk or lift her arms to feed herself. She was not able to function almost entirely.”
After a week of treatment at the hospital, Garrison met with staff from St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, who explained the benefits of rehabilitative treatment. Her initial reaction was trepidation. “I was torn on whether to take her. As a mom, you want to just take her home,” she says. “With everything going on, she was scared. Everything was happening so fast.”
But Garrison decided to give St. Luke’s a try, a decision she says was a good one.
“From the time we walked into St. Luke’s, I was completely impressed with everybody we met, from the nursing staff to the cafeteria.” Besides all the therapy, Garrison appreciated how staff would fetch a blanket or a cup of coffee, doing whatever it took to make them both comfortable.
“I remember walking into her room at St. Luke’s and the wallpaper on one side was cute little girl wallpaper. It didn’t match the rest of the room,” says Garrison, who later found out that one of the nurses had put up the wallpaper to make the room feel special to Aliondra.
While they anticipated two to three weeks in rehabilitation, Aliondra progressed so rapidly she only stayed one week before getting discharged to outpatient care.
The staff at St. Luke’s wasted no time, starting physical, speech and occupational therapy the same day Aliondra arrived. ”They started right away, getting her back to where she should be,” says Garrison. “I was impressed with how she did. Partway through the week, I knew we wouldn’t be there that long.”
Garrison says she especially appreciated how the therapists were flexible, moving therapy to later in the day when they saw mornings were more difficult for Aliondra. “They worked with what worked for her. She was sleeping and napping throughout the day. If it didn’t work they’d come back. I think that helped her progress further.”
“I was impressed they would include me in helping her with different therapy,” continues Garrison, adding that the therapists did a great job of factoring in Aliondra’s age and understanding. They “really connected with her and got her comfortable and gained her trust to be successful. They’d get down on her level and explain things to her. They adapted to her. It made her more successful. I was impressed to watch them work with her.”
And that helped make Aliondra’s physical and mental improvement so impressive says Garrison. “When she got there, she was barely walking. Partway through the week she was walking down the hall with a therapist. By the time we left she would race the therapist from the gym to her room. All the nurses and patients would watch her…It was a very positive experience. I’m so glad we took her.”