Girl receives life-transforming surgery, rehab from Spectrum Health and Mary Free Bed collaboration

Posted at 9:30 PM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 22:28:31-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A little girl from India received a life-altering surgery in Grand Rapids. The surgery and the rehabilitation to follow were both completely free for her mother from Hudsonville.

Spectrum Health and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital have worked together in the past, but they just recently started a special partnership. With that, they were able to help five-year-old Divya Harkema receive surgery that’ll change her life for the better, eventually helping her walk on her own with minimal assistance.

For six weeks, Divya Harkema has been receiving specialized rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

“It’s been really exciting to see the progress that she’s made in such a short time," said Jenn Kampfschulte, physical therapist at Mary Free Bed.

Divya was born in India and has cerebral palsy, which limits her ability to use her legs. Her mother, Merissa, was volunteering at the child foster home where she was and decided to adopt her.

"I think that I am more blessed to be her mom than anything that I’ve given to her," said Merissa.

Merissa made contact with family back home in Hudsonville, who recommended a procedure at Spectrum Health called selective dorsal rhizotomy. The procedure improves muscle spasticity, which tones down the severe tightness in Divya’s leg muscles.

“We know that this procedure helps these children live a better life and because of that it’s a rewarding surgery in that sense because we know we can give them a lot more function," said Dr. Casey Madura, section chief of pediatric neurology at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

Dr. Madura performed Divya’s surgery six weeks ago at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Now, she’s at Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation learning how to stand and walk again with some assistance.

"She’s just standing taller, her movements look easier and I know that as she gets stronger and builds endurance that those changes are just going to continue," said Merissa.

Divya received the surgery and rehab to follow because of a new collaboration between Spectrum Health and Mary Free Bed.

“Spectrum is world-class at some things and we’re world-class at some things and you put those things together and you have an entire episode of world-class care," said Kent Riddle, CEO of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

“By bringing both of our organizations together and our teammates together, we think we can provide even better service for our patients and for our community members," said Tina Freese-Decker, CEO of Spectrum Health.

Divya has two more weeks of rehab at Mary Free Bed before she goes back to India with her mom. She’s already shown a lot of progress, but she’ll keep getting stronger and stronger.

Merissa says she and Divya will be India for at least two more years before they’ll move back to Michigan. Luckily, Merissa is an occupational therapist, so the staff at Mary Free Bed has been helping teach her some rehab that she can do with Divya while they’re in India.