Second Chance at Life

Local Mom of three walks again after rehabilitation for painful diagnosis

Dionicia Castillo-Hernandez, Rehabilitation Patient, St. Mary's Medical Center

Our-Stories-DioniciaThree weeks after giving birth to her son at St. Mary's Medical Center, Dionicia Castillo-Hernandez was excited about the newest addition to her family of three. Dionicia and her family were making plans for her newborn's christening service. Instead, her plans were interrupted when she began experiencing an unbearable pain in her feet that was hard to explain.

"I felt so frozen," remembers Dionicia, who was unable to move her legs or walk because of the tremendous amount of pain and swelling in her feet. "All I could think about was missing my son's christening and taking care of my babies."

Without hesitation, she knew that she needed immediate medical attention. After being admitted to St. Mary's Medical Center, she was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis, a condition that causes inflammation in the spinal cord and could result in paralysis.

A native of Guatemala, Dionicia had lived in the United States for 13 years, but only had a few select friends and family to depend on.

Without receiving rehabilitation for her condition, she faced the challenges of being wheelchair bound and not being able to walk or take care of her children. She would have needed 24-hour assistance from her family.

The therapists and rehab admission team at St. Mary's understood the severity of Dionicia's situation and immediately presented the case to Dr. Bella Chokshi, medical director of the rehabilitation unit and Donna Whalen, the administrative director of the rehabilitation unit.

"Both agreed that the St. Mary's Rehab staff could make a huge impact on this family," recalls Jill Kaufman, a physical therapist on staff at St. Mary's Medical Center.

During her rehabilitation period, Dionicia's daily progress moved the therapists as well as other patients to tears as they all cheered her on during therapy sessions. Today, she is walking on her own with the use of a walker. She thanks the rehabilitation team: all of the doctors, therapists and nurses who were there with her every step of the way.

"It was hard for me, but it made me stronger to get back to reality."

Thanks to St. Mary's Medical Center and its dedicated rehabilitation unit and staff, Dionicia does not have to face being paralyzed, wheelchair bound or unable to care for her children. Instead, she's back to being a mom and providing the best life possible for her three children.