One Step At A Time
Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center caregivers get college student to class on time after battle with a paralysis-causing virus
Grace Zeolla was enjoying her summer break and looking forward to her freshman year at UCLA when she became sick with mononucleosis. At first, she wasn’t too concerned. Then, she noticed her face was tingling and starting to go numb. The numbness traveled down her legs and soon, she was struggling to keep her balance.
Grace’s parents were alarmed and took her to Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center where she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder that causes rapid-onset muscle weakness as the immune system damages the nervous system. Admitted to the ICU, within days Grace, former high school softball and soccer team captain, lost the ability to walk.
Although Grace’s mom knew she was in excellent hands, she was hesitant to leave her side. “I remember looking at my beautiful young daughter lying in bed unable to ask for help,” recalls Beth. Seeing her daughter decline so quickly was difficult for Beth. “I would go in the hallway to cry so she couldn’t see how upset I was, but the staff were always so caring and compassionate.”
Beth was invited to sleep in the room with Grace, which was very comforting during the uncertainty of those first few weeks. “The ICU nurses were incredible. They treated us like family and that helped us function better with the enormity of the situation.”
Extraordinary care and support
For the next month and a half, Grace received innovative treatments that included plasma exchange and immunoglobulin therapy along with a monthlong strenuous rehab regimen to learn to walk again.
One of Grace’s early fears was whether she would recover in time for the start of school. “I was so excited to be accepted into the music management program at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music,” she says. “I made up my mind that there was no way I was going to miss it.” Grace’s recovery involved a team of caregivers who went out of their way to support her healing. She credits her physical therapists with helping her gain the strength she needed to walk again. “They would come into my room three times a day, even if it was just to stretch me, and at first, I could just barely lift my leg up two inches,” she recalls. With her drive to get stronger and the support of an outstanding clinical care team, Grace graduated from the rehab program with two days to spare before the start of the school year.
Grace recently returned to the hospital to thank the team who gave her such extraordinary care and support. She gave angel necklaces to her favorite nurses and surprised one of her doctors by running down the hall to show him how far she had come in her recovery. The outstanding care Grace received was possible thanks to a community of generous donors who ensure that Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center is equipped with the latest high-tech equipment and approaches to care.
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