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Acute at Home a mental health lifeline for families

Aimee Cooper had no idea that extreme stress could cause seizures.

She learned this terrible fact last fall after her 11-year-old daughter, Mady, was found unconscious on the school playground and had to be rushed to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

“We were scared and confused,” says Aimee. “Nothing like this had ever happened before and then suddenly Mady was seizing four times a day, sometimes for as long as an hour.”

After extensive testing, doctors determined that Mady was suffering from psychogenic seizures and needed treatment from mental health specialists in hospital. After two admissions, Aimee and her husband, Trent, were grateful and eager to bring Mady home. Yet they worried about being able to care for their daughter on their own.

Thankfully, that’s when they were referred to the Acute at Home program.

This innovative community-funded outreach service enables children in mental health crisis to receive care in the comfort of their own homes from specially trained therapists, social workers and nurses. They deliver intensive mental health care for children and teens — in person, by video or phone — using treatments tailored to their needs. It was exactly the bridge they needed. Aimee says they looked forward to their weekly Zoom meetings. They also connected with counsellors by phone and text in between.

The Acute at Home team helped them better understand Mady’s illness, settled their fears, gave them practical tools and advice on how to manage difficult situations, and worked hard to support Mady — both at home and at school.

“During the pandemic, Acute at Home has become one of the most active programs in our service,” says Carol Coventry, manager with the Child and Adolescent Addiction, Mental Health and Psychiatry Program.

“It has been absolutely vital to kids and families whose mental health has worsened with school and recreational disruptions, separation from loved ones and concerns about the virus itself.” - Carol Coventry, Manager, Child and Adolescent Addiction, Mental Health and Psychiatry Program

Today, Aimee is happy to say that Mady has far more good days than bad and she’s back to doing things kids her age should be enjoying — like dance, swimming and climbing trees.

“Acute at Home was our lifeline,” says Aimee. “We are so grateful to the generous people who’ve made the program possible. I don’t know how we would have survived without it. I feel in my heart, having this support has kept our daughter from having to go back to the hospital many times.”

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