Helping Maria back to health

How often…

Do we hear of the impact on a young teenage girl like Maria who has suddenly succumbed for no obvious reason to fatigue, mood swings; while also falling asleep for no reason. Her parents were concerned and unsure what had changed in their once model student child. A once bright and happy teenager had become the exact opposite, a depressed child delivering lack lustre school results, suffering with poor concentration and a lethargic approach to life. This was the norm for Maria now.

But her lethargy and lack of concentration were not the norm…

Maria’s parents listened with concern, to her teachers accounts of her change in attitude and behaviour. Her grades had been in the top percentile of the A stream in which she had been a full A student and now she was in risk of not only losing her place in that percentile, but also be moved to a lower class. From this Maria’s teachers thought that with such a drastic change in her it would be for the best if her parents sought medical advice and opinion regarding her health.

Then something happened…

After several visits to the hospital to see consultants, tests showed that her hormone levels had built up a high level of insulin resistance. The result of this, for Maria, was that her blood levels had become exposed to type 2 diabetes and further complications resulted in a rapid weight gain that had become uncontrollable.

Once a proud, self dependent carefree, happy and sporty individual, Maria now finds herself totally reliant on carers and advisers causing her to suffer from depression. Due to this difficult state of being Maria has withdrawn into herself, making it difficult for those closest and who care to communicate with her. The alienation of not being able to be with her friends and be active with her peer group has left her with the only source of interaction, her smart phone.

What if…

‘We could use a tool to communicate and engage with Maria through her smart phone?’ said Dr Alphonso to his team. ‘A tool that enables us to dynamically suggest tailored diet plans and notifies Maria at specific times so she can then make her own selection to create proper nutritional foods? It’s really important we give her the key information highlighting the calories intakes, food consumption breakdown and any other useful nutritional information. Where possible we must be able to cross reference information with scientific and/or other clinically informative sources to re-enforce the credibility of the information.’

Here’s how it could work…

‘Yes that’s a great idea. All done confidentially and securely through a smart phone, this lets Maria take back some ownership and create her own variation’ said the dietician, ‘as we can start to build a picture of how far Maria’s programme deviates from our nutritional plans. I’m hoping that it may only be subtle differences, but the nuances in the data could hold the key to our fact finding analysis. Over a period it would be good if we could then predict, refine and push more specific dietetic plans. Think also how this information could be used for assisting other research projects?’

‘Also it would be good to extend the tool for sending Maria a single prompt asking her to confirm if she had taken her medication at certain intervals?’ chimed in the nurse who sensed the potential power of the tool. ‘It’s important we get her into the mindset of taking care of herself as this will help to minimise the risk of developing complications of diabetes. If this could be monitored by all of us in real-time it would be phenomenal…with the alerts set this would really free me up with having to chase up Maria and other staff members on some of the procedural tasks that get missed… I know initially they seem innocuous but we always find they have a detrimental effect due to bottlenecks and strains they cause further down the line.’

Aware of how Maria used to actively enjoy sporting activities, her parents wandered if the system could take this into account. They could see that the ability to monitor her progress could possibly restore her confidence whilst allowing them to still provide support if required at arm’s length.

‘If you are creating tailored diet plans, could considerations also be made for creating light exercise and nutritional dietary plans with information for Maria?’Asked her parents. ‘She’s always been independent so allowing her to take ownership of the suggestions so she can device plans suited to her abilities might restore her confidence’ said her impassioned father who sensed the potential of the tool.

‘Yes, darling you’re absolutely right…it could be the best way. Maria’s youthful zeal was always characterised by her interacting with puzzles and doing physically challenging activities even on her own. If we could get her to embrace activities like this and just monitor the progress at arm’s length I get the feeling that after six weeks we might get back our Maria once she sees that it’s working.’ Added her mother.

Impressed by the suggestions Maria’s personal carer added, ‘I think through counselling and clinical sessions Maria will be able to engage more with information shared via her mobile rather than directly with me. If we could set our own action plans and stages, act on Maria’s responses, whilst ensuring line managers can monitor and provide authorised sign offs, it will enable us to establish a good line of communication with Maria allowing her the confidence to develop into the active, bright teenager she once was.

Six weeks later…

Now Maria is back and active again and feedback based on research information she requested of “her team”, Maria devised a breakthrough plan revolving around the pursuit of the pleasures of everyday life. By adapting the information supplied by “her team” and seeing how they reacted to her response, Maria put together a programme to help her manage her insulin levels better. She is now healthier, more active and has returned back to the A stream top percentile student she once was.

Behind the scenes her parents and all involved are extremely happy to see a rejuvenated Maria back at school and achieving the high grades she originally achieved…the heart ache saved in seeing your dearly loved child back to full health, happiness and vitality is a price worth paying especially if they are empowered to be able to take full ownership and responsibility for managing their health effectively.