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MFP Testimonial - Paula

Paula Smolenski

MFP Success Story - Paula

Leaky ceiling small bother for MFP participant

“I’m so thankful for all the help I was able to get through the MFP program. It was a real blessing. Everyone involved has been so wonderful. They’re so caring and invested in making sure I succeed.”

For a little more than a week, the ceiling above Paula’s bathtub in her apartment was leaking. It was nothing major, but a leak nonetheless. And it took her apartment maintenance crew a few visits to get it completely fixed. But it didn’t bother Paula much.

Sure, she would have preferred not to have the leak, but it was a fairly minor nuisance. In a sense, it was almost a welcomed nuisance – as much as a leaky ceiling can be, anyways – because it was a leak in Paula’s ceiling. Above Paula’s bathtub. In Paula’s apartment. An apartment in which she is free to come and go, and decorate, and cook.

Paula has come to appreciate independence and all that comes with it – including leaky ceilings – a bit more since spending nearly 11 months in and out of hospitals and a skilled nursing facility between November 2011 and November 2012.

With assistance from the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program, Paula was able to transition from the nursing home back into the apartment she had been sharing with Patricia, a long-time friend who she considers a sister.

“I’m so thankful I have my freedom and have been able to get back into life,” said Paula. “I can go out when I want to now and spend time with my friends.”

When Paula and Patricia moved to Las Vegas from Passaic, New Jersey in August 2011, they were looking for a fresh start. Both had just lost their fathers, and their mothers had both recently been placed in nursing facilities.

And considering that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had just declared a state of emergency and advised many of the Garden State’s residents to evacuate in preparation for Hurricane Irene’s arrival, it seemed like perfect timing.

Life in Las Vegas got off to a good start for the two. Both had transferred from their respective jobs in New Jersey and started working their new positions. On days off, they were also enjoying the Vegas life.

Things, however, took an unexpected turn that November when Paula – who until then had not known she was diabetic – was admitted to the hospital after her left foot began to swell and turn colors. She rushed into surgery where she had to have her left leg amputated at the ankle. After nearly two months of intensive rehab, she was able to move back home.

But less than three months later, Patricia found Paula unresponsive in bed, just a day after she had been sent home from the emergency room after doctors thought she had a diabetic attack. Paula was rushed back to the emergency room where it was determined that she had suffered a stroke.

“I was scared,” recalled Patricia. “I didn’t know if she was going to survive it.”

But Paula did survive. However, the stroke left her with limited speech, mobility, and motor skills. She spent the next several months in a rehabilitation facility where she was able to regain her speech and worked to regain her motor skills.

In May 2012, she was transferred to a skilled nursing facility where she lived for the next seven months. For Paula, the time she spent in the facility was a difficult and trying period.

“I did not enjoy it there,” she said. “My bed was uncomfortable, most of the food was lousy, and I didn’t have much freedom, which was the worst part. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do; I couldn’t live my life.”

However, not long after transferring to the facility, Paula learned that she might be a candidate for MFP from a transition specialist with the program. Though excited by the prospect, she was initially apprehensive about the idea of moving back into the community.

“I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get along because I wasn’t yet sure of myself. I was still learning how to do things like stand and walk and move around,” Paula said.

But after weighing her options, Paula decided to pursue assistance through the program.

Prior to leaving the facility, her MFP transition coordinator helped her apply for a Medicaid waiver program and worked to purchase some household furniture and adaptations to make it easier for Paula to move around the apartment in her wheelchair.

In November 2012, after everything was in place, Paula was discharged from the facility and moved back into her apartment.

“I’m so thankful for all the help I was able to get through the MFP program. It was a real blessing,” she said. “Everyone involved has been so wonderful. They’re so caring and invested in making sure I succeed.”

Since her discharge, Paula’s made an effort to control her diabetes by adopting a healthy lifestyle. The result: She’s lost 50 pounds and hasn’t had to use her insulin since returning home.

With the help of continued physical therapy, she has regained partial use of her right hand. And with assistance from her personal care attendant, she’s made progress in dressing herself.

However, there’s still more to be done. Paula has her sights set on being able to walk on her own without the aid of a walker, and also hopes to get back to work. Nothing major, she insists, just something part-time.

“I know it will take some time and patience, but it will come,” she said.

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