The Caring House staff at Hospice Family Care met Emma when she was seven, about four months following the sudden death of her father. Initially, Emma expressed shock that her dad had died, crying "I can't believe he is dead... he was young and in great shape." She also expressed fear of her mother dying. Emma was able to self-comfort with her stuffed animal, Bonnie, that she had since birth and carried around with her at all times, but she seemed to need something more.
At first, Emma seemed shy in the group discussions held at meetings with other children her age going through the grief process. She did not talk much, and seemed to be "frozen in time". Eventually, Emma began to thaw out, and started opening up and mourning the death of her father, talking more about her feelings surrounding his death. Emma began to feel that she was in the right place, and is now happy to have a group she can share with. Emma said, "At school, my classmates just don't get it... my dad died and I'm not the same. That's really why I come here... you all get it, you know how hard it is. ...I am able to walk away now when I hear friends talk about their dads and I can come here and tell you about it."
Death is not an isolated event that children just "get over". Even during the early stages of Emma's loss, she learned to cope with the death of her father in healthy ways, skills which Emma will use throughout her lifetime.
Mark is a social work intern from Alabama A&M University who was placed at Pathfinder's Drug & Rehabilitation Program. Since he began working there, he noticed the team of staff and volunteers was very dedicated, and clearly cared deeply about their work and those with whom they worked. While not every client "gets it", Mark could see very noticeable changes in several of the clients just during the first five weeks he was there.
"One young man with whom I have visited on several occasions has changed in such a dramatic way that he almost seems like a different person. I have watched him go from an angry, hurt, troubled, scared, withdrawn individual to a much more amiable, open, and relaxed young man. He has an entirely different demeanor and look," Mark observed. "Of course, deep-seated issues do not disappear overnight, and I realize he has only made a beginning. Nevertheless, what a beginning! He has really been using the recovery tools and life skills he is learning at the Pathfinder to find a new way of life - a sober life with a real future. I find it so refreshing to see, as evidenced in someone's life, that places like the Pathfinder actually work."
Steven came to HEALS at age four, his mother reporting that he was fine and had never experienced any chronic illness. As part of Steven's routine health examination, the nurse practitioner listened to Steven's heart - and heard something. There was a faint murmur. The nurse practitioner quickly referred Steven to a local pediatric cardiologist, who examined him and then referred him to UAB, where he was diagnosed with patent ductus arteriousus, a condition usually found at infancy. The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that is present in babies before birth, and allows blood to bypass the pathway to the lungs while the baby is still in the womb. When the baby is born, the vessel closes usually within the first few hours of life. But in some cases, like Steven's, it does not close on it's own, and if left undetected and untreated, can lead to fatigue, breathing problems, serious infection, or even heart failure.
Fortunately, thanks to the collaboration of HEALS with the other services, Steven's condition was identified and diagnosed before it became a serious problem. Surgery was performed by a UAB cardiovascular surgeon, and Steven is on the road to a healthy life and bright future!