Kajha, a 13-year-old honors student, is by all accounts a remarkable young woman. Talk to anyone who has met her, and it seems they just can’t stop talking about how great she is: her spirit, her smile, her generosity, her perseverance. All of that was tested when Kajha had a large stroke one night. She was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where she woke without the ability to speak, walk, or move her right arm. It would have been completely understandable for someone to lose a bit of their positivity after experiencing something like that. But not Kajha.
When she was stable, she came to the Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Unit (CHRU). She was all smiles, even lying in bed unable to move on her own or communicate verbally. Kajha was ready to go to work. Over her weeks at CHRU, Kajha showed every member of her team that she was there to work. Her grit and determination were only matched by her smile and sense of humor. Kajha’s healthcare team — physical, occupational, and speech therapists; nurses; recreational therapist; child life; doctors; psychologist — was there to guide and support her through her impressive recovery. Family members are also a crucial part of every patient’s team, and Kajha’s family provided incredible support, actively engaging in her care from day one.
While each member of the team had specific goals for Kajha, one of the strengths of the team at CHRU is that they all work together with the shared goal of maximizing each patient’s recovery. For Kajha, sometimes that meant taking a brief break in the hallway to sing Motown songs with her speech therapist and a nurse, or planning a joke to play on her occupational or physical therapist. Often it meant showing off a new skill to any and every team member she could. Each skill Kajha began to master was celebrated by her team, and this amazing young woman, who arrived at CHRU unable to do even basic tasks or communicate beyond hand gestures, was discharged from rehab walking, talking (and singing, of course), and taking care of herself in ways any independent teenager would. Her team couldn’t be prouder.