The date of February 29 only happens every four years. But for 17-year-old Morgan McDowell, it was a day that only happens once in a lifetime. Six weeks ago, she was lying in a hospital bed after having a stroke during a basketball game and this past Monday night, she was sitting center ice cheering for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they took on the Phoenix Coyotes at the Consol Energy Center.
Morgan “Mo” is a patient at the Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Unit (CHRU) who is getting ready to return home after being in the hospital for more than a month. Sports and cheering on her favorite teams has been a huge part of Morgan’s life and a significant point of motivation and strength throughout her recovery. So the CHRU team put their heads together, acquired Penguins tickets, and created a plan to take advantage of this opportunity to help prepare her for the transition home.
After a serious injury, patients and families can become overwhelmed when it’s time to leave the safe environment of the hospital and rejoin the community. It can be eye opening and at times stressful for the patient and families. Community outings are one of the many ways that the rehabilitation team, which includes a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, and a nurse, who work together to address these concerns and prepares a patient and family for returning home. This trip to the Penguins game gave Morgan and her family a chance to go beyond the hospital walls and gain valuable insight on her abilities and “real-world” challenges while still being accompanied by a member of her therapy team.
Prior to the puck dropping that night, Mo’s therapy team created specific goals they wanted her to achieve while at the game, including communicating to order a delicious milkshake, challenging her balance to walk through the excited crowd, and manage the timing of medication during the eventful game.
Giving Morgan a chance to practice these real-world activities in a more controlled manner with support from a therapist, offers her a chance to problem solve, understand when she needs assistance, and carry-over skills she has been working on in rehab. Her excitement to finally being out and active brought a tear to many eyes. Mo’s determination, perseverance and success throughout her journey, were matched in the 6-0 shutout victory by the Penguins!
This night left Mo’s family with a better understanding of challenges in the community, adaptations that can be made, but most importantly, a huge smile on her face.
For more information about The Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Unit visit our website at www.chp.edu/chru.