A trip to the grocery store is a weekly occurrence for most families, but for Ta’Riance Harris and Marquinn Buckley, a quick walk through the aisles of Hy-Vee with their young son, Marquinn “Q” Buckley II, is something they’ve dreamed about for months. That’s because Q, born early, requires extra special care. With the help of Madonna’s occupational therapists, on June 29, the family practiced what grocery store runs will look like in the future. The trip is one of many community outings therapists take with patients to help them navigate everyday tasks before they leave Madonna, but for this family it hold special meaning.
“I felt really prepared for this, and it was comforting to have the therapist right behind me,” Harris said. “We had to make sure we had full oxygen tanks and the ventilator was working properly, so there were a lot of moving parts to keep track of.”
Born more than 3 months prematurely, weighing 13.8 ounces, Q is used to all the equipment and all the hospital stays. His lungs didn’t develop fully, a common complication with premature birth. As a result, he lives with pulmonary hypertension, a condition in which high blood pressure affects arteries of the lungs, and right side of the heart. He’s on a ventilator to help him breathe, but it doesn’t slow him down. A community outing to Hy-Vee proved to Harris she and her son will be able to safely participate in activities of daily living, like grocery shopping.
“We finally get to be outside of a facility and get to spend time with him, showing him the things that we do on a weekly basis,” Harris said. “It was also very informing. It helped us understand what the possibilities could be.”
Q’s occupational therapist, Lacie Riley, walked the aisles alongside the family, answering questions and providing mom and dad helpful tips. She has spent the last seven months training Q’s parents for these moments.
“Community re-integration is a really important goal for us as therapists,” Riley said. “We want patients and families to feel comfortable and confident being out in the community doing the things they love to do or need to do every day.”
When Q and his family arrived at Madonna’s Omaha Campus in December 2020, they weren’t sure what the future would hold, but they knew their son needed extensive therapy to help him reach major childhood milestones. At 2, he was unable to walk or talk, and had yet to eat solid food. Through hours of intense physical, occupational and speech therapies, Q has found his voice, is able to walk laps around Madonna’s pediatric unit without assistance and eat his favorite snacks.
Madonna partners with acute care hospitals, like Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, where Q spent the first two years of his life, to ensure a seamless transition to the rehabilitation hospital. Doctors from Children’s Specialty Physicians oversee the pediatric care team at Madonna. The same physicians that attended to Q at Children’s also did daily patient rounding with him at Madonna.
“That partnership is so important because it prevents any hiccups with communication between medical teams,” Dr. Sheilah Snyder, a pediatric hospitalist and member of Q’s team, said. “With these medically complex kids, it’s crucial that everyone is on the same page in terms of care. Having the same team of doctors at both hospitals makes that possible.”
Between daily rounding from doctors and a comprehensive therapy schedule, Q and his parents also completed extensive caregiver training, so the family knows what to do to keep Q safe and his medical equipment in good working order.
“At first, he required a lot of training, just because he had been in the hospital all his life,” Riley said. “There was ventilator training, tracheostomy training, stroller training, and I think the biggest goal was car seat training. Not only making sure he’s safe and secure, but that his equipment is too.”
Riley said Q and his family excelled in all training, and reached milestones quickly.
The biggest milestone for Q and his parents – going home. It’s a moment Harris said she’s been waiting and preparing years for.
“People don’t understand, to come to the hospital every single day, it’s a lot,” Harris said. “We won’t have to plan around what time we go to the hospital each day. No more saying, ‘We have to do this before we go to the hospital.’ He can come with us everywhere.”
Riley said she’s honored to be part of the interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and therapists that made Q’s trip home possible.
“That confidence and comfort with the equipment and training is what we strive for every single day,” she said. “We want to get families back in the community and back home, and to know we helped prepare them for this huge moment feels really special.”
Driving away from Madonna, a place her son had called home for the last seven months, was bittersweet for Harris, because she would miss the care team, but she’s grateful for the progress her son has and will continue to make.