It Takes a Village

Christela surrounded by her family
Talk about a sweet homecoming. 16-year-old Christela had been away from home for roughly six months, working with both the Partners In Health and the St. Boniface Rehabilitation and Community Reintegration teams. But on May 29, she returned to her family in Belladere, Haiti.

Christela’s exact diagnosis is still uncertain, but her symptoms have currently stabilized. She was left with severe spasticity, or altered skeletal muscle performance, in both hamstrings. She came to Fond des Blancs in late February after being referred to the program by Partners In Health, and SBHF and PIH worked closely from medical and logistical standpoints to ensure Christela was given the care she needed. While in the care of the Rehab and Community Reintegration team, Christela went through various cycles of rehabilitation, preventative care education and psychosocial support. Initially, she was unable to self-transfer from her bed to her wheelchair, and was also not able to do any self-care activities. Progression in her rehabilitation process saw her use her wheelchair freely in town, wash clothes, and perform necessary self-care activities. Christela’s spasticity has decreased enough for her to be independent, but she must continue her specialized spasticity medications and physical therapy, says Priya Maloni, Rehab and Training Coordinator.

Much is known about the work of the Rehab team in Fond des Blancs, but less is known about their discharge—or reintegration—process. In each case, reintegration teams work closely with the patient, family members and neighbors to ensure that everyone understands the scope of the condition, and how they can support the patient to live independently. Patients are also given assertive devices, and Christela was sent home with a toilet commode, medication, a wheelchair repair kit, and other supplies. Because of the seven-hour distance from Fond des Blancs, the rehabilitation team will follow up with Christela weekly by phone, and attempt home visits every two months. Traditionally, the team meets with patients on a one-month basis, but distance makes this case particularly difficult.

The team says Christela was all smiles on her return home, and that family and friends ran to meet her as the ambulance parked. She was greeted with hugs and kisses, and her father expressed gratitude to the staff at St. Boniface for the care they provided.