By Michelle Colesanti
It has been over five-and-a-half years since Bloomingdale Library survivor Queena’s life changed. Through the years of community support and great medical treatment, she has made remarkable progress. Her positive attitude has a lot to do with that progress. She undergoes a few hours of outpatient and inpatient therapies each day, including physical, speech, occupational, vision, music, art, yoga, aqua, Therasuit, bicycle and more.
As she continues to improve every day, the progress is slow, but day by day there is positive improvement. She can kick her legs a little bit more and sit up out of her chair with assistance. Her family is hopeful that she will soon speak her first word. She has been swallowing pureed foods and the therapists say that the abilities to eat and speak usually go hand in hand.
Queena’s Music Therapist, Jennifer Miller, from Music Sweet Music Inc. said that Queena has made remarkable progress over the past few months. “Through the use of music related tasks, we are working on fine motor functioning, speech sounds, visual tracking and the communication of wants and needs. Her greatest area of improvement is evident in her attempts to make sounds that are presented within the session. She is able to make basic vowel sounds when cued at various points within a given task. She is becoming more consistent each week. She is also improving in her ability to visually track brightly colored objects, such as small percussion instruments. Finally, she seems more aware of her environment and is able to show musical preference through facial expression,” she noted. She went on to say that Queena is easy to work with and has a pleasant demeanor and wonderful sense of humor.
During free time, Queena enjoys spending time with her mom and a home health aide as they listen to audio books and watch TV and she also plays with her therapy dog, Charlie. She enjoys special time with her sister Anna on weekends and they have attended Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber concerts as well as visiting theme parks and sporting events together. Despite her disabilities, Queena’s family works hard to help her enjoy the everyday pleasures that most of us take for granted. She seems to be happiest and most energetic during fun interactive outings like the beach or a bike ride down the street.
For Queena’s mom, Vanna, every day is a battle. The emotional and constant hands-on care is emotionally, physically and financially draining. It is through the community that the family finds their strength.
The family is currently in need of a wheelchair accessible van, either new or slightly used. Their original van, a 1997 Ford Conversation Van, donated to them by the Rough Riders in 2008, is starting to struggle and they fear that it won’t last much longer. It’s estimated that a new wheelchair accessible van will cost at least $45,000.
At least five or six days a week, Queena’s mom drives her back and forth to her therapy sessions and doctor visits in their current van. On a regular basis, they travel all over Tampa Bay. Without the van, Queena would be stranded at home.
In December, the plan is for her to visit a specialist in Boca Raton and her family prays that the van can make the trip. They also would like to take her to a brain rehab facility in Georgia called the Shepherd Center and also eventually visit family in Maryland, where they are originally from. Queena’s family plans to hold some fundraisers in the near future to help raise money for the van.
Currently Queena T-shirts are for sale on her website, www.joinqueena.com. Regular shirts are $20 and special “bling” shirts cost $35 (plus $5 for shipping).
They are also looking for a dealership that would consider selling them a van at a discounted price. Through the help of donations through the website and upcoming fundraisers, they hope to have enough to make the purchase.
If you would like to find out more about Queena’s progress or help with donations or fundraising for her van, please visit www.joinqueena.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JoinQUEENA.