Abilities Adventures program is helping people with brain injuries gain confidence

Posted at 5:22 PM, Feb 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-23 18:36:20-05

Seven teens and young adults took an eight day trip to Park City, Utah. It's the perfect winter get-away, but this group was also out West to learn valuable lessons. Every person who made the journey has been a patient at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.

"They all had some type of brain injury whether it was a tumor, a stroke, or a traumatic brain injury,” said senior recreation therapist at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Lindie McDonough. “And then on top of that, many of them had a lot of internal things going on."

Each one hand selected to take part in a new program called Abilities Adventures, and this was its inaugural event to the National Abilities Center.         

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Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital tracks every patient who comes through the door, and noticed some were struggling physically and mentally after being discharged. They survived their injuries, but many didn't feel like they were really living. So with the help of the hospital's foundation, McDonough developed abilities adventures.

"Our goal was to rein these kids in that could be really struggling and find a way to help them progress more in their communities, be more involved in their communities, connect with each other, gain some confidence and teach them how to adapt their lives so they can be more successful," she said.         

Fourteen-year-old Ava Conklin was on the trip. She says all of the activities pushed her to grow and gain confidence.

"They made me more independent with everything, like going to the bathroom on my own and going to bed on my own," said Ava.

When Ava was 8-years-old doctors discovered a large tumor on her brain. She underwent surgery to have it removed, and then contracted meningitis and suffered 13 strokes while in a medically induced coma. The little girl woke up and could only blink her eyes.

"Once for yes, and two for no," Ava said.

She spent five months in the hospital and went through intense therapy relearning how to eat, speak and walk.

The eighth grader has made amazing progress over the last six years, and had goals of her own while visiting Utah.

"I was really hoping to walk independently by myself on this trip, but I’m getting closer and closer to doing that," said Ava.

Determination you can see with each step she takes, and exactly the kind of self-sufficiency and self-worth Abilities Adventures is aiming for.

"So we taught these kids the skills to learn how to adapt things on their own so that they don't feel limited when they go home and they go out with their friends, or they go on vacation with their families," McDonough said.

Abilities Adventures is planning another trip out to Utah with a new group of participants this summer, but there will also be events locally.        

If you want to help support Abilities Adventures we put more information HERE.

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