In October 2016, four-year-old Alexis was hospitalized for two weeks due to symptoms related to pneumonia. In that short time, Alexis who was naturally active and energetic was placed into physical restraints due to being viewed as “hyperactive” to a degree that medical staff felt restraints were the only option to ensure proper administration of medical treatment.
Once discharged and back at home, Alexis’s mother began to observe changes in his behavior, including increased fear responses to scheduled medical appointments, avoidance of discussions and exposure to things related to hospitals, and an overall increased irritability and anxiousness. Alexis’s symptoms became so impairing that school personnel also made similar observations. They noticed Alexis becoming nervous, easy to anger, defiant, as well as impulsive in the school setting. As a result, school personnel referred Alexis to El Centro de Amistad.
Alexis began receiving mental health services at our agency in May 2017 with Mental Health Clinician Yvette Quevedo. Yvette began working with Alexis and his mother under the Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, an early intervention model, as a means to assist him in processing his traumatic medical procedure and experience. Yvette assisted the family in first developing an understanding of Alexis’s reaction, providing psychoeducation to the family that Alexis’s reaction was a normal response to a traumatic event.
Alexis and his mother were active in treatment and once psychoeducation and coping skills were developed, the family was able to process the experience. With Yvette’s assistance, they also developed positive ways to view the medical experience and an overall new ability to manage Alexis’s behaviors more effectively. Alexis became less fearful of medical settings and was able to manage his irritable and nervous responses with ease, so much so that Alexis was once again able to attend medical appointments without fear, which the family was able to identify as a triumph.
Despite Alexis’s initial symptoms and intense adverse reactions to his traumatic experience, he was able to return to a state of “normalcy” that the family had missed in the time following his hospitalization. Alexis’s success demonstrates the importance of community mental health and ensuring that our services are available to everyone who may be in need. Although Alexis’s story is just one of many that come from El Centro de Amistad, it is still a grand victory for us all as we continue on our mission in serving others for a better tomorrow.