Dolphin Therapy Recommendation Letter - TAKE 2!

June 10, 2013
Dear Mr. Smith,
            My name is Heather Smith and I am a Licensed Physical Therapist at a small community hospital in the Tampa Bay area. I have had the privilege to have an ongoing working relationship with a very special young lady named Queena. I believe she may be a great candidate for your program at Island Dolphin Care. I have had a chance to explore your website’s photo gallery and descriptions of the opportunities you offer and I feel that Queena would be an awesome candidate for your program.
            Queena is a wonderful young woman who, back in April in 2008, was about to graduate high school and go on to the University of Florida on an academic scholarship. However, on a night when she was dropping off books at the local public library, she was brutally attacked, raped and beaten. She went into a coma and upon awakening was unable to speak, eat, walk or volitionally move her body. She was in the ICU, Acute care hospitals, and Sub-acute Rehab hospitals for many months. When she was able to finally go home, she remained in the same post-coma state, completely dependent upon 24-hr care of others, including her mother, Vanna.  Queena’s life changed forever as did her family’s lives. Her mother, Vanna, is such a strong woman and has been by Queena’s side ever since that day. I know Vanna has been unable to work as she is a full-time caregiver for her daughter. I am not sure if Vanna ever thinks about herself once. She is truly an angel and I believe that God has given Vanna this strength.
            Personally, I first started treating Queena in 2010 in our hospital’s Outpatient Physical Therapy Department and have seen the improvements she has been making through the years. While she struggled with making progress in the first few years, she has really come on strong in 2012 and has simply been amazing me in late 2012 and early 2013. While she still requires 24-hr care, feeding tube for nutrition, total assistance for transfers, she has made achieved many milestones and victories.  Queena has made great strides in her ability to make voluntary movements upon simple cueing, performing ten repetitions in a row of leg kicks, as an example.  With a simple “let’s stand up” command and with the proper physical preparation of the therapists, she uses her muscles to stand up. (She has special orthotics which help support her ankles). She can stand with assist of two persons and use of a gait belt for over 7 minutes. She has been working on initiating taking steps but requires maximum assistance of 2-3 therapists for this so far. She really enjoys riding the 3-wheeled cycle and has learned how to initiate the pedaling motion for short distances of 15-20 feet. Using relaxation methods, Queena has been able to start controlling her strong spastic tone which comes from her type of brain injury. I feel that now is time to explore Queena’s senses and your program could provide those opportunities. Queena is visually impaired and seems to rely much more on her auditory senses which I observe to be quite keen. I would love to have her be out there with the dolphins and have a bonding experience with them! Queena cannot talk and communicate all of her thoughts and feelings but she is very observant of her surrounding, changing facial expressions and listening intently to sounds, music and voices.
            It would be my pleasure to recommend Queena for a scholarship at Island Dolphin Care!  I feel like this is the right time for her to take on an endeavor such as your program. Looking through the photo gallery and look at your website and I can envision Queena having a wonderful experience. In the past year, Queena is probably at the prime position right now physically and cognitively to take on this adventure. Her ability to learn seems at a much faster rate than I’ve seen in the three years. She is learning new movements and following commands to perform consistent volitional movements for the first time.
            Queena is a sweetheart and she never ceases to amaze me with the amount of heart she has! Although she can’t speak, I can see it in the way she works, holding longer, pushing harder with her therapy. She loves to laugh at some of the silly things that we therapists do! She has a laugh and a smile that will melt your heart!! She really is an inspiration to me and for so many other people of which she has come into contact. When I’m doing my workouts at home, I think “Queena is doing 15 (reps); I’ve got to do 15!” She really is deserving of the scholarship for so many reasons. From a therapeutic standpoint, I feel that this is a prime time for her given the way her brain has been able to process information better in the last year. I have always wanted to explore sensory stimulation with her and from the looks of your program, you have an exceptional opportunity for her to enhance her senses: feeling the coolness of the water, hearing the dolphins, touching the dolphins, the warmth of the sun, riding the waves with the dolphins, etc.!
            Thank you sincerely for considering Queena for your scholarship. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about her physical capabilities. I looked at the photo gallery and it did look like you are very accommodating to persons in wheelchairs and those with significant injury.
Heather L. Smith, PT
Supervisor of Rehab
South Bay Hospital

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