Checking back in with Divya after her life-altering surgery

Posted at 5:28 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 17:31:23-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A young girl from India who is living with cerebral palsy is seeing monumental progress in her physical therapy work after receiving a life-altering surgery last year.

Divya working with her physical therapist Jennifer

Six-year-old Divya Harkema is in West Michigan this week working on her motor skills with physical therapists at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

Divya was adopted several years ago by Hudsonville native Merissa Harkema.

Harkema first met Divya when she traveled to India to do volunteer work at a children's foster home in Hyderabad. She had just graduated from college and was looking to put her occupational therapy skills to work.

She quickly fell in love with Divya after working with her at the home.

Harkema says the adoption process in India was long and often confusing. She is now legally Divya's mother.

“It was hard but yet a piece was knowing this was what I’m supposed to be doing," Harkema said.

Divya walking with her canes

While in India, Harkema started looking into surgery options that could help Divya walk.

She ended up receiving surgery completely free of cost thanks to a collaboration between Spectrum Health and Mary Free Bed.

The surgery happened at Helen Devos Children's Hospital and follow-up therapy is at Mary Free Bed.

Because Divya is not yet eligible to apply for United States citizenship, the pair still reside over in India. The plan is to move back to West Michigan once that is taken care of.

For now, Divya works with her Mary Free Bed physical therapist, Jennifer Kampfschulte via video chat.

Divya working with her physical therapist over video chat

“We want to figure out how to give her the most independence she can have on her own so she’s not always having to rely on others for mobility,” Kampfschulte says.

Divya's most recent achievement is walking without a walker. She is now able to take steps using a pair of canes.

"She loves working in therapy and I think that everyone who meets her really enjoys spending time with her too. It's just really fun to watch her work," her mother said of her progress.