Last updated 5 days ago
It’s the last day of school at Morton East High School in Cicero, IL. Maria Valdez, 18, is furiously typing on her computer as she puts the finishing touches on the last paper she’ll ever have to write in high school.
During the few hours I spend with Maria, I learn that she is determined to be known for her confidence and fearlessness—not for the 14 lb. ventilator (nicknamed R2D2 by Maria and her friends) she tows around with her to school every day.
Graduating High School on Time, Despite Adversity
Most people didn’t think Maria would be able to graduate on time with her class, but she proved them wrong last Sunday when she walked across the graduation stage to receive her high school diploma. Maria has overcome a great deal since the hospitalization that placed her on a ventilator 24 hours a day eight years ago—but she doesn’t let it get to her.
She wants people to treat her just like everyone else, and she works hard to have the same opportunities and life experiences as her peers. Today, she is stable at home due to her supportive mom and nurses who keep her grounded—and healthy—and plans to attend Morton College in the fall.
Perseverance When Times Get Tough
Tina Jones, one of Maria’s nurses, has worked with her for the last three years. When asked about their relationship, they look at each other and just laugh. They keep each other’s spirits up when times get tough. Maria wasn’t always as positive as she is now, but she has learned that laughter and perseverance will get her through anything.
At one point during our time together, Maria and Tina burst out in song from the movie Finding Nemo: “You know what you gotta do when life gets you down? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming swimming swimming” These are the words Maria lives by every day.
Transformation to a Confident Young Woman
According to Joe Ojeda, Morton’s computer lab coordinator, Maria has an audacity for life that’s almost palpable. Maria and Joe became fast friends during Maria’s sophomore year when she started showing up to the computer lab every day for lunch.
“We have a saying around here: If Maria can do it, anyone can. She sets the bar for how we all view personal strength. She knows life isn’t easy, but she keeps her head held high and goes after the things she really wants,” Joes explains.
A few months ago, Maria decided to do just that. With the help of her nurses and sisters, she mustered up the courage to ask a young man to her senior prom. She surprised him at the gym with candles spelled out to “Will you go to PROM with me?” And he said yes.
Passion for Art and Photography
Maria loves to write, shoot photography, and do arts and crafts. Her favorite class is AP Studio Photography with Alonso Balderas. Mr. Balderas’ class has opened up her eyes to a career in photo journalism. Maria is passionate about capturing everyday people living everyday lives in her photography.
According to Mr. Balderas, Maria doesn’t let her disability get in the way of her success. “She is a very impressive young lady with amazing ideas. I can’t wait to see what she does next,” he says.
After my interview with Maria is over, I finally understand what her nurse and teachers were trying to tell me all along: Maria has a special talent for making everyone around her feel special.
We wish Maria the best of luck at Morton College this fall as she works to pursue her dream to become a photo journalist.
Last updated 7 days ago
Tracheostomy and ventilator dependence provides its own unique set of challenges for how patients communicate with their caregivers. Like any major life change, tracheostomy and ventilator dependence can lead to some anxiety and frustration. Fortunately, a new study from Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota has shed some light on a new way healthcare providers can help to reduce anxiety in ventilator-dependent patients.
Published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this new study found that ventilator-dependent patients who used headphones to listen to their favorite music experienced reduced anxiety and needed less sedative medications to remain comfortable. By five days into the study, the researchers found that anxiety in these patients was reduced by more than one-third on average compared with those who did not listen to music. The amount of sedative doses in these patients was lowered by 38 percent and the intensity of sedation dropped by 36 percent on average.
The study was conducted with 373 ventilator-dependent patients at intensive care units (ICUs) in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. One group of patients participated in the music intervention, one group received normal care without music, and the last group could self-initiate the use of noise canceling headphones. A music therapist helped the first group to find their favorite music and made it available through a bedside CD player. Patients were encouraged to listen to their music if they were feeling anxious or simply needed some quiet time.
While the noise canceling headphones did show some impact on anxiety levels, the music intervention was much more powerful in reducing both anxiety and sedative use. The researchers believe that the significant reduction in anxiety levels may be due to the comforting and pleasant memories that we associate with our favorite songs.
Do you use music as a therapy tool for ventilator-dependent patients or loved ones? If so, what genre of music do you think works best to ease anxiety and reduce stress?
Last updated 14 days ago
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects more than 500,000 children and adults in the United States alone. The disorder gets its name from “cerebral” which means “of the brain,” and “palsy” which means “lack of muscle control.” CP primarily affects motor skills—including muscle movement and development—which can cause deficiencies in basic motor functions such as respiration, eating and digestion, and bladder control.
There are three types of CP that can affect the body in different ways:
Spastic CP: Causes chronic stiffness and trouble with movement
Athetoid CP: Causes involuntary muscle movements
Ataxic CP: Causes difficulties in balance and depth perception
CP may be the result of brain damage that occurs after birth or during delivery with signs and symptoms usually appearing by a child’s first birthday. Traumatic brain injuries that occur before a child reaches the age of five can also lead to CP. Those at highest risk for CP are babies born prematurely and children who have sustained early childhood injuries.
Treatment is unique for every child, given the type of CP and severity of the disorder. Some common treatments include physical therapy, pulmonary care with in-home respiration equipment, orthopedic surgery, and prescription medication. Due to the unique set of challenges and varying degrees of CP, it may be helpful to seek additional help and assistance in the form of home nursing.
Last updated 16 days ago
Xavier is showing his support for the Cubs in honor of The Crosstown Classic baseball series last week in Chicago! The Chicago Cubs shutout the Chicago White Sox in the four game series. What is your favorite Chicago baseball team – the Cubs or the Sox?
Last updated 20 days ago
In 2012, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimated that 270,000 people in the U.S. were living with spinal cord injuries. Please share this infographic with anyone who is looking to learn more about common causes and symptoms of spinal cord injury.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury and are considering in-home private duty nursing, please read this infographic for more information. Home medical equipment and skilled private duty nursing care—including monitoring, home health visits, 24/7 clinical support, and customized treatment plans—are available to pediatric and adult patients with spinal cord injuries.