The first visits by our CHIP team to Emilia’s home proved to be difficult. She harbored many doubts about the program and struggled to understand how her actions and behavior influenced her children. The two and three year old children were living in a chaotic environment with marital discord, few routines and no health insurance. The biggest obstacle to helping the family was convincing Emilia that the methods used by our CHIP team were the most effective way to improve her children’s quality of life. Our Parent Educator Norma’s first attempts at engaging Emilia and the children with a PAT activity using the sensory box was met with concerns that the children would just make a mess and that there was no benefit to what Norma asked them to do. For three visits Emilia was adamant that things were fine in the household and she was unsure that the parenting behaviors being taught by the CHIP team would actually impact her children’s health and development
However, after three visits Emilia gradually opened up to the members of the CHIP team. According to Alex a snowball effect of sorts kicked in and after Emilia acknowledged parts of the advice that were given, she quickly became receptive to almost anything. By the fourth visit she had begun to purchase developmental toys for her children who seemed to be making progress. Partway through a visit, Norma noticed that the son Valentin had a lump on his neck and asked Emilia about it. Emilia responded that the doctor had noticed it during a recent well checkup visit. According to Emilia, the doctor had recommended to wait for a few months before getting any tests done. Once again, Norma reiterated what the CHIP team had being discussing with the family about health insurance being essential in receiving proper care at the doctor’s office. On this day, Norma also warned Emilia that a doctor might not be able to fully administer care unless health insurance was in place for Valentin. Two weeks later, during the following home visit, Emilia reported having acquired medical coverage and also recounted her numerous difficulties in trying to get the coverage so that Valentin could proceed to the first round of testing. Norma assisted Emilia with navigating the insurance company electronic system and was able to facilitate communication between the doctor’s office and the insurance company. The doctor immediately ordered a biopsy and Valentin was diagnosed with cancer. This was devastating news for Emilia who had been working so hard to improve her children’s lives, Norma was the first to receive a call from Emilia who was quite clearly distraught and unable to leave her bed. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation and the potential for self-harm, Norma contacted Elise and the two proceeded immediately to the residence for an evaluation.
Elise proved to be an excellent resource for Emilia during the period right after the diagnosis. She was able to continue providing education about blended families, help with her depression and refer Emilia to outpatient counseling. This proved critical in ensuring that Emilia remained in good spirits following her son’s diagnosis.
Alex elected to attend the first oncologist appointment with the family in order to provide a base of support. She helped write out a list of questions for the doctors and then during the visit took notes so that she could go over them with the overwhelmed Emilia later on. The doctors diagnosed Valentin with curable cancer, an excellent prognosis. The CHIP team readied Valentin to undergo treatment at MCV. Valentine’s sickness rallied his family, with the brothers and father shaving their heads in support.
Emilia was adamant that the education provided by the CHIP team helped her to deal with all the stressors her family had been facing. If she had not been informed of the importance of a positive parenting behaviors and attitudes, her approach to the crisis would have been drastically different. The family continued to come together and an older son even organized a motorcycle rally designed to raise support for his younger brother. The bringing together of the family helped to alleviate the vicious cycle of anxiety and upset that had been present in the household before.
Valentin’s treatment has concluded successfully and Emilia has chosen to demonstrate her gratitude by becoming more involved in the community. Working with a Lay Health Promoters class through Crossover, she assists in identifying leaders in the community, educating them and preparing them to share health, parenting and wellbeing topics with their own community fellow. Because her education by the CHIP team proved to be so beneficial, Emilia now recognizes the importance of health education and is able to pass along some of what she has learned.
In a recent visit Valentin proved to be in excellent spirits. He engaged with the PAT activity and carefully constructed a number of colorful play dough creations. The other children in the room worked on the activity as well, conversing in a quiet blend of English and Spanish. There were few problems with sharing and Emilia was able to talk to Norma without being loudly interrupted by the children. A receptive Emilia as well as organized playing of the children stands in stark contrast to the original environment the CHIP team encountered. The family has made great progress and will only continue to succeed in the near future.