Newsroom > Publications > August E-Newsletter >> Jake's Story
Getting a cold or even the flu is just a part of growing up. But for Jake Rozak, it wasn’t any typical mid-October case of the sniffles that ended him up in the Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital Boston.
What started out as a cold, developed into pneumonia, and later, became what doctors called Atypical Transverse Myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across the spinal cord.
The nine year old boy who loved to skateboard and ski couldn’t lift his head, neck or arm. All doctors could point to was a virus that affected him very differently than it had others. Over the course of two weeks, he made improvements and recovered from the illness but was left with lingering paralysis. Doctors made it clear that Jake’s motor nerves would improve slowly, over months, possibly years and would be greatly dependent upon the rehabilitation he would receive.
When the time comes for patients, like Jake, to transfer from an acute care hospital to a rehabilitation hospital, the focus changes from medical management of the condition to more intensive rehabilitative efforts to help the patient return to normal life. Like other families, the Rozaks had a couple of options for where they could go. For Susan, Jake’s mom, the decision came down to going somewhere with a pediatric specialty. “Franciscan Hospital for Children is dedicated to working with only children. The staff has the expertise to understand children’s unique needs. I felt confident that Franciscan Hospital was the best choice for us.”
When he arrived, Jake was resistant to treatment because of the battery of tests, needles and scans he’d experienced up until that point. During his stay at Franciscan, Jake worked hard in twice daily physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions. The therapists were thoughtful and knew how to encourage him. They created customized games and activities that appealed to him like riding a “bull” and “Bowling for Barbies.” He also did “Wii hab” using the Wii gaming system as a therapy tool.
Since his throat, swallowing and eating were affected, he also received speech therapy daily. Almost everyday he used the Smith Family Pediatric Therapy Pool. It was there that he reached a turning point that allowed him to use his arms. By rowing against the “rapids” in the pool, he got motion back, forgot his limitations and just had fun.
An educational coordinator through the hospital ensured that Jake’s educational needs would also be met during his stay. In addition to the rehabilitation, Jake also had a once daily tutor help him keep up to date on his schoolwork. A tutor talked to his teacher back home, got his textbooks and kept him current with his regular class curriculum. When the time came for him to transition back to school, he acclimated back well and was welcomed with cards, a banner and a video made by his class. In addition to the educational focus of his stay, there was also a behavioral health component of his care. “Another benefit of being at a children’s hospital was the proximity to a child psychologist who he saw over the course of his stay. We all wanted to make sure that he understood and was dealing with the emotional side of his illness and recovery,” said Jake’s dad, Jeff.
A constant flurry of visitors kept Jake and his family occupied when he wasn’t in therapy. The colorful playrooms were put to good use when his two brothers and friends from home came to visit. Having other children on the unit around the same age introduced Jake to new friends too. Children at Franciscan get to meet the occasional celebrity when they come to visit with patients. During his stay, Jake got several opportunities to meet celebrity athletes. He met two of the gold medalist Boston Breakers soccer players and got to attend a Red Sox game as one of the
Today, Jake has made terrific progress and is on track to recover entirely. He continues with outpatient therapies and is currently seeing a chiropractor. When asked about the experience at Franciscan Hospital for Children, Susan Rozak said, “The whole facility is a child-centered environment. When a child is sick, the warmth of the staff is really important. They took the time to get to know Jake.”