Tessa’s Story

Polaroid picture of Tessa.

Getting Better and Making Friends in the Transitional Care Unit

Every day we see adults acting as mentors for the children and teens with whom their lives intertwine. But recently at ChildServe, we’ve been witness to a fourteen-year-old girl who became a mentor, a friend, a shining light to other children as well as adults during her stay in the Transitional Care Unit.

Walking may be a simple activity for most adolescents, but for Tessa it was a challenge. Tessa has Spina Bifida and also suffers from a congenital hip deformity which made walking very difficult and painful. If her condition went untreated, she would have eventually lost the ability to walk altogether. Because of this, Tessa underwent acetabuloplasty surgery, a procedure in which the edge of her hip socket was built out to improve stability and keep her hip from dislocating.

Such a complex operation required significant rehabilitation, which brought Tessa to ChildServe. She arrived in a full hip/leg cast and once it was removed, she received intensive inpatient occupational and physical therapies. ChildServe’s therapists worked with Tessa to regain her strength and improve her balance so that she could receive the full benefits that her surgery afforded her.

Tessa’s mom Sarah quickly turned into an advocate for the organization. Although arriving in hesitance of being far away from home, family, school, and friends, she was immediately introduced to the level of intense care that the staff provides.

“The staff is amazing. You can tell in everything they do that they really want to be here,” says Sarah.

During Tessa’s eight-week stay at ChildServe, she got to explore a lot of different activities like sculpting clay beads, building a birdhouse, and one craft which was all her idea: she decorated a t-shirt for other children staying in the TCU.

“I just wanted to do something nice for the other kids before I left,” she said. “A lot of the other kids are going to be here longer than me, and I wanted to do something to make them happy.”

Sarah is proud of her daughter, and grateful for the opportunity they’ve had to meet other families in relatable situations.

“We have made some very good friends here, and the entire experience has been a reminder of how blessed we are for everything that Tessa has.”

After eight weeks of focused treatment, Tessa was ready to leave ChildServe walking on her own, an activity that she and her family will never again take for granted. The day she was officially discharged and able to return home to Waterloo, ChildServe staff lined the hallway leading to the exit. Once Tessa appeared in the doorway, everyone began to applaud, sending Tessa off with a “clap-out.” Tessa was overwhelmed, and tears began rolling not only down her face, but down the faces of many staff members as well. Tessa’s story is an illustration that ChildServe is not just a place where children come, get better, and leave, but rather a temporary home where lasting relationships are forged, lives are changed, and memories are built which won’t be forgotten.