“We're finally starting to see our old Kokayi back."

-Dr. Duane Thomas, dad

Kokayi in the rehab gym

Three years ago, Kokayi Thomas, an athletic, vibrant and outgoing teenager, was diagnosed with a tumor on his brain stem. Kokayi underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but it resulted in a brain injury that affected Kokayi’s coordination and balance. He had increased weakness on his right side, and lost his ability to swallow, speak and see clearly.

Kokayi went to a nearby inpatient rehabilitation unit for physical, occupational, speech and neuropsychological therapy, where he made steady progress. But soon he hit a plateau. Kokayi’s father, Dr. Duane Thomas, a clinical psychologist, knew it was time for a change. He turned to Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital (MWPH)’s outpatient rehabilitation program, where the team is dedicated to helping children recover from injuries and lead more functional, independent lives.

“MWPH is revered in this area for its high-quality, state-of-the-art services,” Dr. Thomas says. “It has a really good reputation for fostering good outcomes for kids, so when we had the opportunity to think about an outpatient facility that could advance Kokayi’s recovery, we immediately thought of MWPH.”

Since his surgery, Kokayi always told his father that he doesn’t want his present condition to be his new normal. “We really took that to heart,” says Dr. Thomas. “We were looking for a facility to help bring about that change—to get him back to preoperative functioning as closely as possible.”

Kokayi and his father credit the rehab team at MWPH, including physical therapist assistant Sonya Johnson-Branch, for pushing him to that next level in his progress. “They don’t ‘coddle kids,’ but work with compassion and rigor to help them reach their individual treatment goals.”

During therapy sessions, Kokayi uses a StairMaster to strengthen his muscles, and practices walking using different equipment. He was also treated at the Balance Clinic using state-of-the-art equipment to assist in treating his balance and mobility issues.  The team works with Kokayi and his family on goals that make sense for his individual needs. They debrief the family on progress during sessions. And they give Kokayi “homework,” or activities he can do at home and in school to stay motivated and push further.

“It’s hard, but we get it done,” Kokayi says. And it’s working. Both Kokayi and his father have seen Kokayi’s mobility increase dramatically—along with his strength, coordination, and spirit.

“I’m walking in school with a walker instead of my raggedy wheelchair,” Kokayi says. “My confidence went up a lot with that. I’m open to trying new things when the old me wouldn’t do that.”

Dad agrees. “We’re finally starting to see our old Kokayi back. This place is really helping us come closer to his goal.”

“To see Kokayi progress from a state of paralysis—not being able to move, not being able to talk, not being able to swallow—to where he is today is nothing short of extraordinary for me,” he adds. “I’m very proud of him.”

His advice for parents looking for an outpatient rehabilitation program for their children? “Don’t wait. MWPH has a good reputation and it exceeded our expectations. It’s an extraordinary facility with great resources for your child and for your family.”

“It takes special people to do this job—it’s definitely an art and a science,” he adds. “At MWPH, you can see they’re passionate about their work. If you’re looking for a place that’s really invested in the kids they serve, through the sweat and tears, and definitely through the laughter, then this is a good place to come.”

To schedule outpatient appointments or learn more about our programs, call us at 410-367-2222.