Compassionate Care

Independence Days

Takoda, with his mom, Melissa, finds freedom on the slopes.

With hard work and caring support, patients achieve their definitions of freedom

At Shriners Children’s, success is a broad term, and its measurement is unique to each patient: from taking single steps to playing collegiate sports; from dressing independently to playing a musical instrument. For many of our patients, success simply means meeting milestones for independent living – and there’s nothing simple about it.

And there’s another important element, according to Alison J. Wahoff, D.O., at Shriners Children’s Erie. “As rehab physicians, we look to maximize function, but we also prioritize the joy a patient is getting from life,” she said. “We look at success as accomplishing small goals that increase joy. Sometimes the goals are physical, but they can also be emotional.”

Chief Medical Officer Fran Farley, M.D., said, “Shriners Children’s patients and their clinical teams never let physical challenges define them, especially when it comes to following their passions. The highly specialized care the healthcare system offers includes support for meeting challenges along the way.”

A drive for independence

Jack uses a custom prosthesis to cook for himself.

Dr. Wahoff ’s patient Takoda is a motivated 17-year-old focused on the next step to independence: getting his driver’s license.

Takoda was 11 when he became a hero by pushing a younger playmate off the railroad tracks and out of a train’s way, saving his life. The train struck Takoda, causing injuries that brought him to Shriners Children’s Erie for care, including 12 surgeries and a lower leg amputation.

Takoda’s first goal was to get a new leg, and once he received his prosthesis, his next objective became building his endurance.

Recovering from the accident was not easy physically or emotionally, but Takoda remained focused on his goals and worked hard to overcome his challenges. Now, he’s pursuing his driver’s license and hopes to attend college in a few years.

“Takoda is such a success story,” Dr. Wahoff said. “He has not only had to figure out a new way to do things after his accident, but he has also determined what makes him feel good emotionally and has persevered through any obstacles that have gotten in the way of that.”

“Takoda has always exhibited an attitude of being unstoppable despite the challenges he has faced,” added Rebecca L. Bowman, PT, DPT, director of rehabilitation services. “His perseverance following such a traumatic event at a young age has been nothing short of amazing for us to witness.”

A recipe for triumph

Jack, who was born with bilateral upper extremity differences and a mild cognitive delay related to a prenatal brain injury, knows what it’s like to work hard for the simple joys in life.

Now 18, Jack receives treatment at Shriners Children’s New England. When discussing the activities of daily living that Jack enjoys most, his occupational therapist, Mary Ellen Brown, MS, OTR/L, saw his excitement
when a cooking tool was presented to him.

“We have been in discussions about plans for independent living,” Jack’s mother, Linda, said. “It is important that Jack feels comfortable and confident on his own – especially in the kitchen. We want him to be able to roll out of bed and make brownies if he is craving them.”

After observing Jack’s preferences, challenges and habits in the kitchen, Brown worked closely with prosthetist/orthotist Liz Selgrade, CPO, to develop a customized prosthesis that would give him the functionality he needed to cook more independently.

Jack uses a silicone liner with a pin at the end that fits over his residual limb. The pin locks into the prosthesis to keep the device on the arm, and an added bonus is that he can use the pin as a tool for opening and closing zip lock bags and flip-top spice containers outside of the prosthesis. The prosthetic wrist moves side to side and up and down, allowing Jack to get the position he needs for his culinary creations. The team also modified a whisk and spatula so the utensils can screw directly into the prosthesis.

“Jack has always learned to adjust to his circumstances,” Linda said. “But now he is excited because, with the help of Shriners Children’s, he sees that the possibilities are endless. And not just in the kitchen, but in all that Jack does.”

No matter what the success story, each patient has a care team cheering them on every step of the way. “At Shriners Children’s, each child is unique, and we pride ourselves on meeting their extraordinary needs,” said Chief Nursing Officer Beverly A. Bokovitz, DNP, RN, NEA-BC. “We do it with a highly competent staff, a strong sense of compassion and, most importantly, a smile.”