Monday, June 1, 2015

'Making friends' an unexpected rehab gift, parents say

By Louise Kinross

Jimena Ortiz and Ricardo Menendez say one of the greatest gifts of their son Sebastian's inpatient stay at Holland Bloorview was the friends he made.

Because of life-threatening seizures, Sebastian, 16, wasn't able to go out with school friends in the past. "We didn't allow him to go anywhere alone so he missed trips with school," Jimena said on Friday as they were packing up to leave. "He felt like he was alone, and different from the other kids. His self-esteem was very poor."

Sebastian came to Holland Bloorview in March after brain surgery to remove an area thought to be causing his seizures.

"We are so blessed to be here," Jimena said. "He had physio, speech therapy, school, occupational therapy and so many groups where he got to meet other kids: a teen support group, the lunch club, and a cognitive group. The staff helped him work on social skills and looking people in the eye and he's going home with so much confidence. He's made three very good friends. He says he's not alone anymore and he has friends that understand him. The experience in the hospital gave him an attitude of being more understanding of other kids and of their parents."

Sebastian didn't have a seizure for six weeks following his surgery, but did have three shortly before he was discharged. "The big goal was that he be free of seizures but we are generally feeling more optimistic. Sebastian has a hope to be normal: to be able to drive, go to sleepovers and parties and trips with friends."

Jimena says she benefited from getting to know other parents of children who were hospitalized here. "I've made some good friends too. It's been an unbelievable experience to see parents with a pure love for their kids."