SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – For many high schoolers around the country, prom is a special time. For 18-year-old Raya from Springfield, going to senior prom meant a lot more.
Walking head held high in a powder blue prom dress, was something Raya wouldn’t have been able to do just two and a half weeks ago. But the staff at Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield made all that possible.
On Friday afternoon, in a hospital room decorated like a starry night, Raya gathered with family and friends to celebrate her senior prom.
“I wouldn’t think this would happen. Not here. Not at a hospital,” said Raya.
Raya was unable to attend her senior prom at Central High on May 24, due to being in the hospital. But, she helped plan this one with the help of Child Life Specialist, Anne O’Gorman.
O’Gorman told 22News, “The therapeutic pieces of planning a prom were included in her physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. She enjoyed it and I could tell her stress was being relieved.”
Raya came in to Shriners Hospital for Children from Baystate Medical Center for rehabilitation after having inflammation of her brain which caused her to lose some of her functional abilities and some memory loss.
“More importantly, her head was titled and really stuck in a position,” said the Medical Director of Inpatient Rehabilitation at the hospital, Kerstin Sobus. “We did therapy so she could get her head back and now she’s so excited because she can turn her head in each direction.”
The brain inflammation was caused by an autoimmune response where her body was sending antibodies to her brain, which caused the inflammation, Sobus explained.
The prom dress that Raya wore came from nurse, Juliet Lowe, who’s daughter had worn it to her prom. Lowe and other nurses from around the hospital helped decorate the room.
“To see her laugh and smile and get to be a senior in high school is exactly the goal of child life at Shriners,” said Anne O’Gorman.
Friday was also Raya’s last day in the hospital.
“I’m kind of sad [that I’m] leaving. I’m going to miss everybody. But it’s good to go home,” said Raya.
Raya will still have to wear her collar for six weeks to maintain the range of motion that she gained back in her neck.