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    It Takes A Team to Aid a Child

    Fall 2012

    Marcia Faye

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    Photo: Bonnie Robinson

    A laundry basket is more than a toy for 7-year-old Valerie Jimenez. When she inverts the hamper over herself—concealing her torso but not her legs, which exhibit a drop-foot condition that prevents her from walking—she finds a source of security and a cozy haven in the darkness within.

    “Valerie is not very expressive and basically lives in her own world,” says her mother, Ruth Aguilar (PSYC 4th year), adding that Valerie’s only words are an occasional “Mama.” “The basket is her favorite place; she likes to be in there all of the time. Valerie rarely gives me a hug; but when she does she expresses her love for me, and that hug is what keeps me going.”

    Valerie’s development was normal until she was about six months old, when Aguilar noticed that her daughter began losing her balance and choking on pureed foods and liquids. Valerie slept much of the time, and her pediatrician noted that her head was smaller than average. Her brain stopped growing and so did her progress in motor skills, cognitive skills, and communication.

    After performing various imaging modalities and tests to rule out Rett syndrome, Angelman syndrome, and autism spectral disorders, specialists at Children’s Memorial Hospital (now the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago) and LaRabida Children’s Hospital were mystified. Each year, Valerie continued to have an MRI and EEG to monitor any new abnormalities. When Valerie suffered a nearly fatal reaction to a new sedative in 2008, Aguilar made a series of life-altering changes.

    “I decided not to subject Valerie to any more unnecessary treatment,” says Aguilar. “Along with this, I decided to go back to school to take subjects to help my child now, get rid of my constant depression, and learn how to make Valerie become as self-sufficient as possible.”

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