With her bright colored clothes and her outgoing personality, you would never know the challenges Keshia has had to face in her life. In fact, you could say she is an expert at overcoming obstacles.
“Since the beginning, she’s exceeded what everyone thought she could be,” explains Keshia’s mother. Keshia was born very thin and fragile and had difficulty moving as a baby. Doctors even told Keshia’s parents that she would most likely never walk. Keshia’s parents didn’t accept that fate for their daughter and have worked tirelessly to find support resources.
In elementary school, Keshia was diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome – a genetic disorder where one of the symptoms is a constant feeling of hunger. Having a better understanding of their daughter’s condition, Keshia’s parents supported her as she lived at home until she graduated from her high school’s special needs program. “They say the first decade is easier to manage, but the second decade becomes more challenging,” says Keshia’s mother. “After Keshia’s graduation, we felt we had done what we could on our own.” That’s when Keshia moved into Laura Baker Services Association.
Her mother says, “One of the reasons we were attracted to LBSA was because they had successfully supported Prader-Willi clients.” The transition to LBSA went well for the first few months until some of the novelty of a new living situation wore off. With the support of LBSA staff, and continued advocacy and support of her parents, Keshia continued to work through daily ups and downs.
A few years after moving into LBSA, Keshia faced another significant challenge – she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. As a result, she was prescribed new medication, which involved several different medication trials. It was during this time that Keshia’s health began to suffer. Keshia’s mother was very concerned about her daughter’s increasing weight and overall health. At the suggestion of Keshia’s doctor, she read the book “Eat to Live.” Afterwards, Keshia’s mother requested a meeting with LBSA support staff to develop a plan to better manage Keshia’s eating and impact her health positively.
Implementing a new diet sounds easier than it was. The plan required two layers of collaboration, specifically dietary staff preparing the meals and Keshia’s direct support staff working with Keshia on the transition to the new menu. According to Keshia’s household director Sierra Law, the transition to the new eating regime was rough at first. “Keshia doesn’t like changes, so we would try and make it fun for her,” explains Sierra. “The way you word things is important, and she likes surprises, so we would say, ‘This is your special diet.’”
Staff began involving Keshia in the menu planning process, helping Keshia to feel energized and engaged. The full transition to the new diet took about 12 weeks, and the results have been transformative. Keshia has lost over 50 pounds, which is considerable given she is under five feet tall. Even more remarkable are the additional changes her mother has seen. “We’ve been able to decrease the dosage of her psychotropic medications. She no longer takes afternoon naps. She has a lot more energy to go out and do things, and her ability to converse with you is so much improved.”
Today, Keshia goes to her day program in Owatonna five days a week and loves it! She loves cats. She loves being outside in the summer and going for walks. She enjoys movies and spending time with staff and peers in Elwell. “When she gives you a food name, that’s when you know she’s accepted you as a staff member,” says Sierra Chicken Noodle Soup, who has worked with Keshia for the last 11 years. “Keshia is very happy and makes Elwell so much fun!”
All from the little girl that would likely never walk.