Thirteen-year-old Tasnim moved to the United States from Bangladesh in 2015, and settled with her family in Brooklyn. She quickly acclimated to her new school - excelling in academics, playing on the volleyball team, and making many friends. When she began exhibiting flu-like symptoms, she visited the family physician. The last thing she recalls is speaking with the doctor before slipping into an unconscious state and waking up ten days later in a hospital bed, surrounded by machines.
Tasnim had contracted a rare, bacterial infection that quickly spread throughout her body - triggering toxic shock syndrome, near-fatal multi-organ system failure and gangrene in both of her legs. Three-months after being stabilized at a New York City hospital, she was transferred and admitted to Blythedale for extensive rehabilitation and complex wound care.
“She was in severe pain from the spreading necrotic tissue in her legs and required daily showering, debridement and dressing changes,” said Dr. Kathy Silverman, coordinating pediatrician. “This meant hours of intensive care, on a daily basis, involving a multi-disciplinary team consisting of doctors, nurses, therapists, Child Life specialists, and many more.”
Due to the aggressive nature of her illness, Tasnim required bilateral below-knee amputations. Upon return to Blythedale, she resumed physical and occupational therapies, preparing her to eventually walk again with the help of prosthetics. She was fitted for two prosthetic legs under the direction of Blythedale Physiatrist Dr. Ruth Alejandro. “The entire time she was motivated to work hard and help others, despite having to deal with some serious, enduring medical issues,” said Dr. Alejandro.
This summer, with her proud physiatrist and physical therapist by her side, Tasnim took her first steps on her new legs. "She's beginning to learn how to walk," said Blythedale physical therapist Jenny Haseney. "She's a fighter with an inspirational spirit."
Not only were there physical obstacles to overcome during Tasnim’s treatments and therapies, but there were also educational challenges. “Just like adults who have to concern themselves with getting back to work, we’re concerned with getting our kids back to school,” said Dr. Alejandro. Tasnim enrolled in eighth grade at the Hospital’s on-site school, committed to keeping up with her studies.
“She’s a model student for all of our children here who have overcome adversity - courageous, hardworking, always upbeat and tenacious,” said Dr. Emily Hersh, Superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant-Blythedale U.F.S.D. It was that tenacity that helped Tasnim convince the New York City Department of Education to administer their high school placement test to her while a Blythedale patient. She passed with flying colors and started school in her Brooklyn community last month. “The special partnership between the Hospital and school allows our children to heal with the necessary medical attention, while our educational services allow each child to feel typical when life may seem so out of control,” said Dr. Hersh.
“Whatever your goal is, just push yourself in everything,” said Tasnim. “I couldn’t move my hands, my legs or my neck. Now I can do everything by myself and I’m home now. Blythedale helped me a lot.”