‘Living a new life’


Marie enjoys dancing, dressing up after surgery


For most of Marie’s life, she struggled to walk and dance and do simple things like open the dryer or take out the trash.

Thanks to the advocacy of staff members at MOKA’s Greenboro home in Kentwood, Marie feels like a new woman after breast reduction surgery. Marie, a Greenboro resident since 2014, suffered from severe back pain and had difficulty with activities of daily living, much less finding clothes that fit.

“When I tried to walk, I couldn’t hardly walk,” Marie says about life before the surgery.

“I can actually bend down and pick up things, and I don’t have to worry about, you know, my breasts wearing me down, so I can stand and pick up things. I can do dancing and exercise.”

With the blessing and support of Marie’s guardian, MOKA’s Greenboro employees advocated for the surgery and supported her through the recovery process. They found the surgeon, transported her to and from doctor’s appointments, and tended to her incisions – and healing – after she returned home.

Home Supervisor Grace Chiwara stayed in regular contact with the surgeon’s office and took Marie in for surgery. There were a few tense moments – one involving Marie second-guessing the decision – and then a second stay in the hospital after the operation.

Marie says she was initially scared because she had never had surgery before. After the surgeon gave Marie personal reassurance, Marie decided to proceed.

“The surgeon actually came in to talk to Marie and said ‘Marie, I will be here for you, I will do my best, I will try to make sure everything will go well,’” Grace says.

The entire recovery process took about six months, but the surgery was worth it. Marie can do things she has never done before. Besides bathing herself and doing chores around the home, Marie’s appearance has changed.

She has a newfound sense of joy and independence, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by her family members and the entire Greenboro team. Grace calls her transformation “amazing.”

“It’s like she is living a new life, a totally a new life from what she was before,” Grace says. “When you see her dancing, she can dance nonstop. She can brush her hair nicely; she can dress herself up nicely. She can wear nice dresses, which fit her so nicely.”

MOKA’s residential homes encourage the development of relationships, helping individuals feel safe and affirmed while supporting their independence and letting “their voice be heard.” Residential Support employees have direct contact with the residents and advocate on their behalf when needed, especially when it can improve their quality of life.

“We try to encourage them. We don’t make decisions for them, but we give them ideas on what would be best for them,” says Carolyne Yego, Residential Support Staff.

There are times when an individual may need surgery or help managing chronic health issues, but Marie’s post-op care involved two wounds, one near a feeding tube, that required dressings twice a day and extra care while showering.

“The dressing part of it was really complicated,” Grace says. “It wasn’t an ordinary surgery. It was really a major surgery, and the team at Greenboro is just amazing.”

Greenboro’s employees took great care to clean and dress her incisions, even volunteering to come in on their days off to help out. Marie also kept a positive attitude during her recovery and wanted to get back to living.

“Marie was strong throughout the process and she was excited, and every time you would help her, she was so grateful, telling you ‘thank you, thank you,’” says Ophelia Davis, Residential Support Staff. “She was really, really wanting to see herself recover, so she would push herself as well.”

Supporting Marie through her surgery was truly a team effort, one that involved encouragement, empathy, and some TLC. They are all proud of how it turned out.

“All and all, we are so grateful for the outcome,” Ophelia says. “She is a great lady. She’s so, we don’t know how to express it, but Marie is doing really awesome right now after the surgery.”

Adds Grace: “It’s still amazing when we look at her. We are all so happy. Everybody is just excited. To say we have come a long way, this is just too good for us.”


Story by Marla Miller. Photo by Lara Parent.