Happy Mother's Day!
Editor’s Note: Gillette Children's is a special place, due, in part, to its devoted employees. We’re lucky to have several members of our staff who are moms to Gillette patients. As you celebrate the special mother in your life this Sunday, May 13, we’d like to introduce you to two of the Gillette moms who help make life better for our patients and their families.
My daughter is my miracle
Gillette Children's Environment of Care specialist, Mary Mensha, has a wide grin and a sparkle in her eyes as she exclaims, “If I wasn’t for my daughter I wouldn’t have this job! I’m thankful to my daughter, Lizzy, for introducing me to Gillette.”
Mensha’s 14-year-old daughter first came to Gillette shortly after she was born. According to Mensha, Lizzy was born with health complications and spent the first four months of her life in an intensive care unit before being transferred to Gillette for further treatment.
“My daughter is a miracle,” Mensha says. “The fact that I can work in a place as nice as Gillette is also a miracle.”
Mensha is originally from Ghana in West Africa. She came to the United States in 1996 after winning an immigration lottery. Her brother was already in the U.S. working in a pharmacy in Chicago. He encouraged Mensha to come to America and advised her to settle in the Twin Cities because his wife is originally from the area.
“It’s lucky I came here,” Mensha says. “This is where Gillette is and this place means so much to my family.”
Mensha says from her first visit to Gillette with her daughter she knew it was a friendly place. “The first time I came here I got lost. I had to ask for help and the people were so friendly. I thought what a great place. I want to work with these people. My husband encouraged me to apply but I thought, ‘you have to know someone to get to work at a great hospital.’ In my interview I spoke about my daughter and, thankfully, I was hired. I love my job.”
Mensha helps to keep Gillette clean and takes special care in making sure each patient room is perfect. She knows what it’s like to have your child in the hospital and can identify with the stress families are experiencing. “The families tell me they appreciate my work. They’re grateful their child has a nice, clean room. I feel good knowing that I’m helping these families during a difficult time. It’s my way of helping.”
She also likes being part of a caring team. “The doctors, nurses and housekeeping staff all work together for our patients. I like being part of this community,” Mensha says.
To celebrate Mother’s Day, Mensha plans to call her own mother living in Ghana and looks forward to getting a handmade card from her daughter Lizzy. “I’m all about family,” she says.
I think of my work and experience as a parent to be a blessing
For Gillette therapeutic recreation specialist, Kaitlin Lewis, it’s not an overstatement to say working at Gillette helped her solve the mystery of why her son, Charlie, was missing developmental milestones.
“Charlie was born in September 2014—nine weeks too early. As he grew, I noticed his right knee was hyperextending backwards, his speech was delayed and I began to be concerned that he might have cerebral palsy,” Lewis says. She consulted several providers at Gillette but a firm diagnosis was not made.
In 2016, her work at Gillette required her to attend an education session about a relatively rare condition—Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It’s a connective tissue disorder that‘s characterized by joint hypermobility (joints that stretch further than normal), skin that can be stretched further than normal and tissue fragility.
“I sat in that education session and it just raised red flags for me. All of the symptoms they outlined were things that Charlie was dealing with. At the time no one knew that I was pregnant with my second child. At the session I learned that a geneticist could do a physical examination using a combination of criteria. After my exam, I discovered I was a carrier for Ehlers-Danlos.”
Armed with this new knowledge Lewis could take precautions with her second pregnancy. “I took weekly progesterone injections to reduce the risk of early birth and limited my movement so I could get more rest,” Lewis says.
Her daughter, Carrington, was born a few weeks early in October 2017. Carrington is generally healthy but is showing delays in her milestones and will be evaluated for therapies soon. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome cannot be assessed in babies because all typical babies have some degree of joint laxity.
“Working at Gillette has helped prepare me to be the mom of kids who have health challenges,” Lewis says. “As a recreational therapist, I really feel like I can empathize and anticipate the needs of the family. I’m here to tell them that if they focus on being in the moment with their child they can appreciate the good times!”
Lewis says her Mother’s Day celebration will probably include ice cream and time outside with her two kids.