Adriana’s spirit inspires bond of caring

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 “The wolf huffed and he puffed but he couldn’t blow Adriana’s spirit down.”

A cartoon image of the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood is just one of the many images of fictional characters and their messages of inspiration on posters covering the walls of Adriana Miele’s patient room at Mackenzie Health. In fact, not much dims the spirit of this special young woman.

“She is always smiling,” her mother, Anna, says. “She loves art, music and dancing.” Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of three, Adriana has faced countless medical challenges in her 33 years. Anna calls her a fighter. Everyone who meets Adriana is inspired by her.

While visits to the hospital are nothing new for Adriana and her family, she was faced with her biggest medical challenge yet when she was admitted to Mackenzie Health’s Intensive Care Unit in July 2015.

Complications arising from surgery to relieve a bowel obstruction meant that Adriana would spend nearly the next year fighting for her life. But that she did, overcoming one hurdle at a time, winning over the hearts of those who cared for her at Mackenzie Health.

So inspired, Mackenzie Health’s Dr. Carol Redstone, Division Head and Physician Lead, Critical Care, and her ICU team took a unique approach to caring for such a spirited woman by creating a “magnificent display of positive energy” in Adriana’s room.

“It started when we were trying to wean Adriana off the ventilator,” Dr. Redstone says. “She seemed to respond to my silly sense of humour and jokes, so I thought I would take it a step further and provide her with something that was a positive reinforcement for all her efforts to breathe on her own.”

Posters with inspirational messages, light-hearted jokes, riddles and photographs of friends and family cover the walls for Adriana to see. A binder, in which staff and visitors can leave Adriana notes of love and wishes, lives at the foot of Adriana’s bed. Anna reads these notes to her daughter daily.

Anna spends her days by her daughter’s side. They go for walks in the morning, afternoons are dedicated to resting, catching up on their favourite TV shows, reading, looking at pictures, and talking about all the wonderful things they will do when Adriana is feeling better. Though unable to communicate verbally, Adriana finds a way to connect deeply with her mom. Whether it’s a smile, a graceful blink, or that “cheeky look” that Anna loves dearly, the two have an unbreakable bond that doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Anna and her family have played a significant role in Adriana’s care,” Dr. Redstone says. “They truly are key partners in Adriana’s recovery. It is remarkable how much trust is placed in the medical team, and it is a trust that I deeply honour.” For Anna, the trust is mutual and overwhelmingly emotional. “I am so touched by Dr. Redstone’s compassion,” she says. “I could never put into words how much she has given to Adriana and our family.”

“Every day, Adriana looks forward to seeing Dr. Redstone and her team,” Anna says. “The whole team has been amazing at lifting our spirits. The hardest part has been the unknown. We have been frightened and afraid for Adriana at times, but the Mackenzie Health team has truly helped us get through the worst.” Anna praises every nurse, clinician, volunteer and physician who has cared for Adriana, as well as members of the Patient Relations and Spiritual Care Services teams for their warmth and kindness toward her family. She is grateful for the friendships she and Adriana have made. “George, the hospital’s chaplain, has come just about every day to visit Adriana,” she says. “We really look forward to it.”

Anna believes that if it weren’t for Adriana’s three surgeons, Dr. Ali Fiture, Dr. Robert Fingerote and Dr. Lucas Kus, Adriana would not be where she is today. “I am forever grateful. God has truly answered our prayers,” Anna says. It has been a challenging year for Adriana, but together, her family and the Mackenzie Health team have celebrated some big improvements in Adriana’s progress. “When Adriana blinks to say thanks or show her delight, there is no greater reward,” Dr. Redstone says.

Photo: An unbreakable bond of friendship and care between Dr. Carol Redstone and Adriana Miele