With her spunky personality, contagious smile and determined spirit, 9-year-old Zena has proven to be "one-of-a-kind" in many ways.
"By the time she was three months old, I could tell something was different about Zena,” said her mom, Kayla. "She wasn't meeting developmental milestones and after months of testing, doctors discovered that Zena has three microdeletions [missing pieces] in her chromosomes. Medical geneticists at Mayo Clinic told us they don't know of anyone like Zena in the world.”
Zena's unique diagnosis made it impossible for her family to know what her future held. At age 2, she began occupational, physical and speech therapies at ChildServe.
"From the beginning, we were flying blind when it came to Zena, but we've partnered with her ChildServe therapists to discover what works for her,” said Kayla. “She keeps surprising me with how much she can accomplish.”
When Zena began services at ChildServe, she was unable to sit up, walk, communicate, hold objects, make eye contact, and she would not allow anyone to touch her hands.
Thanks to her work in speech therapy, Zena can use images of words and objects to communicate. Today, Zena is learning to use a communication device that allows her to tap buttons to play the sounds of words she'd like to say
With the help of her occupational therapist, Zena no longer struggles with her hands being touched. Today she can feed herself with utensils, pick up toys and practice brushing her teeth independently.
After beginning physical therapy with no ability to walk, stand or even sit upright, Zena can now stand, walk and use stairs with support. Zena knows how to fall safely without hitting her head, and she can ride a tricycle, pedaling all by herself!
Though Zena's "one-of-a-kind" diagnosis came with uncertainty, her unique, fighting spirit continues to drive her forward to a new kind of uncertainty – one without limits.
"I don't know what to expect from Zena anymore,” said Kayla. “What I used to think was impossible has become our new normal. She is becoming more independent than I ever anticipated. ChildServe has given her a life that we only could have dreamed of years ago.”
Thanks to incredible support from the United Way of Story County since 1999, we are partnering with more families than ever before to help children like Zena live a great life.