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Aakriti's Recovery Story -
From Pediatric Patient to Pediatrician
Aakriti was looking forward to starting college at UCLA in the fall of 2016 when she became ill with an upper respiratory infection around July 4th. As a previously healthy 18-year-old, she was surprised when her body became weaker and weaker in the next few weeks. By mid-July, her family took her to a local hospital because her arms and legs were so weak that she could not walk or feed herself. After extensive tests, the doctors diagnosed Aakriti with Guillain-Barré Syndrome—a rare syndrome in which the immune system produces harmful antibodies that attack nerves. She began treatment immediately with healthy intravenous antibodies. Over time, she was able to sit up unsupported and started to move her shoulders, fingers, and toes. Because she had been unable to sit up or walk for over a month, her body had become very weak. She began working with physical and occupational therapy during her acute hospital stay and the therapists recommended she transfer to the Pediatric Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC).
At SCVMC, Aakriti participated in therapy 3 hours every day. A team including her Pediatrician, a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician, nurses, a physical therapist, occupational therapist, child life specialist, case manager and social worker helped her with her recovery. Her parents spent day and night with Aakriti in the hospital and learned ways to help her get stronger with exercises and how to help her with safe transfers and walking. During this time, Aakriti developed her passion for painting after her recreational therapist recommended it to her to aid in her recovery, a passion that she has continued after her stay in the hospital. After 5 weeks of participating in pediatric rehabilitation, several weeks sooner than her team predicted, Aakriti was able to walk with the help of her crutches and went home with the help of her parents.
Due to her extensive hospitalization, Aakriti postponed her admission to UCLA until the Winter quarter. Determined to not defer another quarter from UCLA, she then began outpatient physical and occupational therapy. She attended appointments almost every day for the next three months so that she would be physically able to live on her own in college. She also practiced her daily exercises her therapists at SCVMC had given her as well as continued swimming exercises, an activity she enjoyed at SCVMC for her physical therapy. The hard work paid off as she was able to walk longer distances with one crutch and, with the help of UCLA’s disability services that drove her to class from her dorm, was able to successfully attend college Winter quarter. Aakriti graduated from UCLA in 2020 with honor’s cum laude and received a Bachelor’s in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology and minor in Biomedical Research.
“Our pediatric rehabilitation team is passionate about providing children and adolescents with the best developmentally appropriate care. Our goal is for children and adolescents to experience success when they go home and return to educational and recreational activities in their communities. We recognize that each patient and family are unique. We also know how challenging the journey is for every family, and we support the entire family along the way.” said Dr. Roberta Wang, Aakriti’ s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician.
Aakriti and her family are very thankful for everything the team brought to her recovery. Aakriti shared “I had always wanted to go into medicine and become a doctor, but the experience on the Pediatric Rehabilitation unit at SCVMC really solidified my desire to work in pediatrics because the environment was truly inspiring and supportive.” Her father, Rajiv Dua, also conveyed “We are immensely grateful to the hospital for their caring, loving, and personalized care and support that helped our daughter have a speedy recovery.”
Aakriti really connected with her entire medical team and hospital staff. From the nurses, therapists, physicians and environmental service workers, one of whom gifted Aakriti with professional paints and brushes after seeing the paintings she hung in her room, Aakriti greatly appreciated everyone’s help and compassion. She still keeps in touch with many of her therapists and Dr. Wang. Aakriti attributes her rapid recovery to the amazing work of her medical team.
Currently, Aakriti is a first-year medical student at California Northstate University. She has made a complete recovery and has regained her initial strength, endurance, and range of motion prior to her Guillain-Barré Syndrome. She enjoys swimming, golfing, and painting since her recovery. She looks forward to working towards her goal of becoming a doctor and working in pediatrics in the future. She hopes to become an inspirational doctor who brings smiles to children’s faces, just like the doctors that helped her at SCVMC.