Dependable Heroes and Kelly Sweeney’s Success


Posted on April 30, 2018


Successful people have a knack for recruiting mentors and finding support on their life’s journey, and Kelly Sweeney is no different. In fact, she is as successful as they come. As a young woman with Down syndrome she has had to overcome a lot. About 50% of children with Down syndrome are born with heart problems, and Kelly was no exception. By the age of two Kelly had open-heart surgery and was fitted with a pacemaker that was permanently placed in her abdomen. She was not expected to live beyond high school graduation.

Even as a newborn it seems Kelly was able to recruit her first supporter, her mother Cathy Sweeney-Daniel who vowed to do everything possible to ensure Kelly had a fulfilling life, the life of Kelly’s dreams, from the moment she first held Kelly in her arms. On the playground in elementary school Kelly began to recruit a group of life-long friends that remain in her life today.

Kelly graduated from Sahuaro High School as one of the first students in Arizona with Down syndrome to attend all regular education classes through elementary, middle and high school in a fully integrated classroom setting. Being in a fully integrated setting means that she was not separated from her peers, but instead participated in the classroom with the support of a paraprofessional.

As an adult, Kelly has continued to add to her support group by recruiting Karate instructors, roommates, colleagues, and her cat named Doug. It is with this team of support that Kelly continues to grow and blaze new trails. Today, as a 34 year “young” woman she lives a very active and independent life. She is employed at the University of Arizona Education Department, and volunteers in the children’s section of the local library. Kelly has somewhere to be every single day of her life. She knows she is a contributing, worthwhile member of her community every single day.

According to her mother, “Kelly lives the kind of life every parent wishes for their child, but she wouldn’t have reclaimed this level of independence without the help of a very special organization, Dependable Health Services.”
In June of 2017, Kelly suffered a health incident that landed her in the ER. Her condition was initially diagnosed as being dehydrated, but upon further testing it was discovered that Kelly had heart and lung issues that were leading to congestive heart failure. Her condition was grim, and options were limited. The issues were so acute that her family was told to prepare for the worst.

There were no standard protocols for people with Down syndrome who also have chronic pulmonary issues to address Kelly’s condition, so her specialist Dr. Franz Rischard of Banner University Medical Center had to quickly figure something out. They developed a procedure to use a converted diabetic pump to pump the life-saving drug that she needed and quickly inserted a catheter to begin the medication delivery. The procedure was successful, and Kelly was sent home to live with her mom and stepdad a week later. The after effects of the procedure required daily nursing support to check on and change out the pump and cath site when needed. Kelly would need to do this for the rest of her life, and would most likely not be able to live independently again.

Kelly’s hopeful and optimistic nature inspired her supporters, and while going through many treatments, needle jabs and recovery she announced, “I want to move back home, back to my own apartment.” Cathy knew her daughter would be happier at her apartment with her cat and her roommate, but she also knew that Kelly would not be able to change out the pump and medication on her own. So, once again, mom was recruited by her daughter to help support her dreams, and started looking for home health care providers.

The family contacted the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD),and they put a request out to all the nursing agencies in Tucson to solicit their interest in supporting Kelly and her family with a treatment plan that could meet her health care needs and support her living on her own again. Dependable Health Services was the only agency to respond to the DDD request and meet with the family. Cathy believes other agencies didn’t respond because of the challenges and risk associated with a non-standard treatment of care for a person with Down syndrome.

The family met with Dependable Health Services, The Blake Foundation, and nurses from DDD, to get acquainted and determine if the agency would be a good fit. Within a very short time the Dependable Health Services team was developing a relationship with Kelly and the family and creating treatment solutions that would make it possible for Kelly’s transition to her cherished independence. The personable nature of the interaction was critical in the decision to choose Dependable Health Services. Cathy says, “I appreciate how the Dependable nurses talk to and treat Kelly like the adult she is.” That initial meeting was so successful that the family asked for Dependable Health Service’s nurse Liz Miller to be the coordinating nurse for the combined DDD, Blake Foundation, Family and the Dependable team. Dependable Health Services was hired immediately after the initial meeting.

For the subsequent six months, Liz and the Dependable Health Services team worked with the family to provide care, help train Blake Foundation staff, and develop a comprehensive system of scheduling daily nursing visits around Kelly’s daily activities, as well as taking on the responsibility of ordering medications and supplies. They delivered (and still do deliver) home health services 7 days a week and tried to maintain flexibility around Kelly’s schedule, so she could maintain her health, independence and the quality of life she so dearly loves. Kelly was back in her own apartment 6 months after her procedure.

Both Kelly and Cathy attribute this success to Dependable Health Services for their commitment to Kelly and the Tucson community by delivering home health solutions where it’s most needed and when it’s most challenging.
Cathy says of Liz and Dependable Health Services, “Stepping up is so important, and Dependable Health Services was the only agency to step up. Their strengths are their quality of care, availability, skill, collaboration and communication. We LOVE Dependable Health. They are TRULY life savers. They are our heroes.”

Kelly simply says, “I love my life.”

As a young woman with a disability, Kelly hopes to impact and inspire the rest of the community with her determination, strength and independent spirit. She is a case study for other people with Down syndrome that may need this treatment in the future.

Dependable Health Services continues to live its motto daily – Dependable… it’s not just a name, it’s a commitment.