Cumberland’s in-patient evaluation and treatment program was suggested for my son Michael because of behavior issues at school (aggressive outbursts), unhealthy habits at home (diet choices had made him dangerously obese), and the need to provide a consistent approach to toilet training.
It was a difficult decision. Mikey had never been away from his parents for more than a single night since he was born. I was terribly concerned about leaving my son, who has severe autism and is non-verbal, in a new, unfamiliar place, unable to explain his needs to a staff that did not know him.
It was clear from the beginning that the staff was working from an enormous base of experience, and there was little that Mikey could throw at them that they had not seen before. It was also clear from meeting his therapists, such as Lee, and the nurse/aides such as John, Alison, and others, that they were interested in Mikey as a person, and were interested in helping him.
With minor med changes, Mikey adjusted well to an entirely new environment, and aggressive outbursts quickly diminished. It was also clear that his inner good nature was showing through, as the staff’s comments about him were tinged with clear affection.
One of the tougher challenges was breaking Mikey of deeply ingrained bad eating habits. Other than pop tarts, Oreos, and string cheese in huge amounts, Mikey refused to try any other foods. Cumberland became a safe environment in which to force a very difficult change on a very strong-willed child. In the course of re-establishing control over his diet choices, Mikey lost a huge amount of excess weight – it was carefully monitored – and his overall health and vitality improved.
Time-based toilet training regimen did not totally succeed in making Mikey toilet-trained, but it clearly made progress in helping him recognize his need to go, and to move to the bathroom when he felt an event was imminent.
The Cumberland communal format and daily activity regimen also tested Mikey’s ability to adapt to change and establish new routines, and he responded very well. His flexibility was amply demonstrated in a safe way, increasing my comfort level with further managed care and day camp activities where he would be with new groups. The staff’s friendly and responsive attitude also went a long way in helping an anxious father endure four months of living apart from the “heart of the family.” Nurses in his unit were always available, and made a point of bringing the phone to Mikey so we could hear each other’s voices. Weekend visits, especially day passes, were easy to do, and made the separation more endurable. It also helped a lot when bringing him back that Mikey felt totally comfortable and happy returning to his unit and finding his bed.
The memory of Cumberland that will stick with me the longest, however, and which I would like to share, happened the day that he was discharged. Mikey and I were in the parking lot, hurrying to get on the road home before Richmond traffic got bad, and a young nurse came running out to us. I thought we had forgotten to sign something. “Thank God I caught you!” She panted, “I would have hated to let him go without saying goodbye.” She gave Mikey a giant hug and told him how much she would miss him. I had no idea who she was, but I think it showed the kind of people who work there, and why they do what they do.
~ Benjamin S., Parent

As a social worker with a pediatric endocrinology clinic, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Cumberland. They produce exceptional results as we see patients complete the program and come home with improved compliance and better overall health. Cumberland staff members have been very professional, helpful, and make transitions into and out of their facility seamless. I would recommend it hands down for any family seeking intensive treatment for their child with complex needs.
~ Kristy Dennis
Pediatric Social Worker, WakeMed Hospital

A 15 year old female hospitalized at MCV Hospital on the Pediatric Unit in early March of 2010 presented with a history of psychiatric disorder- Schizophrenia catatonia, Polyphagia, Hyperglycemia, and a new onset of Diabetes Mellitus with a blood sugar of 700. After being given an insulin regimen, bolus and a new diet, her blood sugar levels dropped, but fluctuated around 300. Throughout her stay at MCV, it was determined the patient was unable to perform self-care and was basically mute, presenting as non-verbal with a family who was not often at bedside to assist the medical staff there. Medical history appeared to indicate she suffered from psychiatric disorders for some time with noted non-verbal behavior and inappropriate reactions to others actions; including inappropriate responses to physical exams and intermittent giggling. She had also had several admissions to VTCC within a two-year time frame. She was taking Lupron and Risperdal at the time, although Physician’s at MCV were unable to determine what amount of each she was actually consuming. During her stay at MCV and after much consultation with Dr. Sonanklar, Psychiatrist and I, it was determined and suspected that the patient was suffering from neglect and abuse in her home, likely at the hand of her Father. At this time I made a formal CPS complaint and an investigation was opened. It was then discovered CPS had investigated the child’s home in the recent past several times. The medical team on Peds 7W determined it would be in the child’s best interest to pursue placement at Cumberland Hospital to address her medical and psychological needs. The child was admitted to Cumberland Hospital for Children & Adolescents in March of 2010. There she received care for both her Schizophrenia and her new onset of Diabetes. Cumberland was able to control her diabetes well and aide her in learning a new lifestyle and in learning self-care. After several months at Cumberland, she was discharged into Foster Care and placed with a great family. Since 2010 she has maintained the regimen she learned while at Cumberland, has become an independent, vocal young adult, and is doing quite well. She has maintained attendance and follow-up with VTCC, Dr. Sonanklar, and her outside providers who were set up upon discharge from Cumberland. In fact, she is participating in a school work release program and is currently running the school store. Throughout the years I have worked for the Pediatrics Department at MCV I have sent a number of children to Cumberland for continued treatment and care of their chronic illnesses with many discharging, and returning home and back to the community with great outcomes and a high success rate, but this particular patient is one who sticks in my mind as a child we thought had very little hope for living a functional life. She presented as basically mute, glucose levels through the roof, and with questionable behaviors and definite signs of abuse. Today she is thriving, verbal, and medically stable thanks to her treatment at Cumberland!
~ Michele Baughan
Social Worker, MCV Hospital

-Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents has been very helpful in the care of our patients with brain injuries and associated neurocognitive and neurobehavioral difficulties as well as our patients who have been struggling with chronic disease management because of associated behavioral and psychiatric difficulties. Cumberland provides the comprehensive inpatient treatment services that these children require. Cumberland also provides detailed aftercare plans. Our patients and their families have provided positive reviews of their experiences at Cumberland. I think that we are fortunate to have a facility like Cumberland in our area.
~ Kenneth W. Norwood, Jr., M.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Virginia

-Families are often faced with decisions which are difficult, and beyond what we think are in the realm of possibilities. When these decisions include the wellbeing of our children it sometimes feels as though there are no choices, and it seems unbearable. We don’t know where to look, who to trust, or what to do to ensure our children are well treated and safe. The diagnoses of the doctors ring in our ears over and over. Often the prognosis given crushes our emotions and makes us feel as though we have nowhere to turn. I felt that way. My son was diagnosed with Hashimotos Encephalitis. This is an autoimmune illness that causes the brain to swell. At times his speech was unintelligible, he had to hold on to the door frame to maintain his balance as he entered the front door, and his ability to read, write, or recall basic math facts was severely impacted. One night after having pizza he couldn’t even figure out how to close the top to the pizza box. My son that won “Student of the Year” on two separate occasions was now unable to follow more than two steps of directions. Worse, his brain swelling caused aggression. He tried to hurt us, himself, and destroyed our home. I was intent that my son would not live up to his prognosis. I would not relegate him to an institution for the rest of his life. I searched far and wide for help. I found Cumberland. I fought with insurance, my doctors begged insurance, and we finally received permission to place him in Cumberland Hospital. He was able to stay six months. This was enough to have his body begin the healing process in an environment that provided safety for him and us. He came home, not perfect, but light years ahead of his admission. He spoke more clearly, read a little, and could write again. Cumberland isn’t home, but it is a place of safety, nurturing, and understanding of our chronically ill children. They not only supported him, but were a tremendous support to our family. Nine months after leaving Cumberland my son graduated from high school (a year early), and a month later entered college. Truthfully, I don’t know of another place in the entire country that would provide the medical, psychological, emotional, and loving support that we (whole family) received. I don’t believe my son would be alive today if we had not had the luxury of placing him at Cumberland.
~ Jack Q., Parent (Alabama)