Courage is... Perseverance in Reaching my Goals

By Kalena Biggs

Tuesday, Aug 9 2016

2016 Patient Ambassador Kalena

For me, courage means being brave when facing challenges in life and always working toward my goals.

When I was born, I faced several medical issues requiring me to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. My first surgery took place three days after I was born. I would go on to have a total of eight surgical procedures for bowel, bladder and kidney issues, up to age 15. I have wonderful doctors and surgeons at Children’s Hospital Colorado who have improved my health and quality of life.

When I was 2 years old, I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder: autism. I began receiving early intervention therapies for communication difficulties, sensory issues and emotional problems. I was non-verbal, and speech therapists taught me to use pictures and a computerized device to get my needs met and communicate with others.

Eventually, I was referred to my speech therapist at Children’s Colorado, who successfully treated my verbal apraxia and taught me to speak! In speech therapy, I learned the mouth movements and pronunciations for vowels, consonants and words, how to change my tone of voice and voice pitch, and how to say sentences fluently.

My occupational therapists helped me overcome sensory issues, feeding difficulties and social anxiety. In feeding therapy, I learned to try new foods and eat a wide variety of foods. My physical therapists have helped me become stronger and more coordinated and improve my balance and flexibility.

I also attended social skills groups to learn how to interact and play with other kids. Through these groups, I learned how to have social conversations, build and maintain friendships, read body language, be considerate of what others want, be generous to others, make compromises, and deal with conflicts and bullies.

As a teenager in high school, I continue to work with my developmental doctors to improve my social skills, my physical health and my psychological well-being. I love school and plan to attend college after I graduate. I’m continually working toward new academic and personal goals, and I feel very lucky that I’ve received amazing support and care through Children’s Colorado.

Thank you to the pediatric and urology surgeons, the Child Development Unit, and all the excellent therapists I have worked with. You have all helped me to achieve my goals and excel in life.


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