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Stanford University School of Medicine

Packard program to facilitate learning celebrates one patient’s journey to college

When pain from chronic disease stops a young person from attending school, it can kick off a negative cycle. He or she can become isolated and miss out on key learning opportunities, which can exacerbate the pain.

Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford has set up programs to help these children and teens manage pain and to return to their lives, including providing assistance to allow them to attend school.

Hari Suresh, a 20-year-old from Fremont who's featured in a recent Packard Children's news article, has benefited from this support. Despite severe chronic pain from stemming from juvenile arthritis and Crohn's colitis, Suresh is heading to the University of California, Davis in the fall.

Jeanne Kane, who is shown above with Suresh, is one of the team members that made his college career possible. Kane supervises Packard Children's Hospital Educational Advocacy Liaison, or HEAL program. The article explains:

...their mission is to help enable families with medically fragile children to experience success in learning despite limitations imposed by their medical condition.

'We know that life returning to 'normal' activities, like education is critical for a child's optimal adjustment,' said Kane. 'And parents and children often face new obstacles when the child returns to school.'

One of those obstacles was earning educational accommodations from [Suresh's] school. His frequent absences for hospital stays, fatigue and stress, as well as memory issues associated with his medications, took a toll on his schoolwork...

A big part of HEAL's function is educating students, parents, and schools about the unique cognitive, social and emotional needs of medically fragile children, in order to obtain appropriate school services. In Hari's case, his mother, Pannaga Parthasarathy, had exhausted her efforts as his advocate. 'At a certain point I didn't know what else to ask for to help him in school,' she said.

Kane even helped with the college application process and the entire Packard Children's team is working to ensure Suresh's experience in college is a success.

And Suresh himself is nervous, but ready: "I'm most looking forward to being a college student, feeling like normal, not feeling different, not being a patient — getting the chance to live my life."

Previously: Teens use photography to depict journeys through chronic painDay of fun provides girls with cancer a chance to bond and relax and Makerspace debuts in in Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford
Photo courtesy of the Suresh family

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