Occupational Therapy Assistant Winnie Miller poses for a photo with Taylor Anthony. They worked together over the last 14 years. Now, Taylor is heading off to college.

At ECU Health, team members go above and beyond to form trusting relationships with patients and their families to better serve eastern North Carolina.

Over the last 14 years, Occupational Therapy Assistant Winnie Miller worked one on one nearly every week with Taylor Anthony, who is now preparing for his freshman year at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Taylor is autistic and began receiving treatment from an occupational therapist when he was 3 years old.

First steps

Kim Anthony, Taylor’s mother, recalled the early days of her son working with an occupational therapist.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Winnie Miller poses for a photo with Taylor Anthony. They worked together over the last 14 years. Now, Taylor is heading off to college.

“He was my first child and had special needs,” Kim said. “I remember walking in and just being terrified – you don’t know what your future looks like, or his future, or will college even be an option.”

After about a year of working with a couple of other occupational therapists within the health system, Miller stepped in and began her treatment sessions with Taylor.

Miller said their work together started with the base steps – figuring out hand dominance, holding pencils, learning to write, forming letters and coloring within lines.

Kim said as Taylor reached school age, she’d be frustrated when hearing about things that people believed Taylor could not do. But she knew she could turn to Miller and her expertise to come up with a plan to help Taylor reach his goals.

“I would email her and be like, ‘I’m struggling with this’ and she would be like, ‘OK we’ll figure it out,’” Kim said. “She would have checklists for him and just everything. It was amazing. She was the biggest support system I had.”

Hitting their stride

Occupational Therapy Assistant Winnie Miller stands with Taylor Anthony. They worked together over the last 14 years. Now, Taylor is heading off to college.

As Taylor got a bit older they worked on how to tie shoes and other fine motor skills. Then it was on to processing your environment and communicating clearly, social aspects of life, how to drive, and other elements of college life and living independently.

Miller compared her role as an occupational therapist to being a coach, with the patient’s supportive family as the team.

“The coach can give suggestions and a play-by-play plan of what you need to work on, but we’re just a little snippet,” Miller said. “I’m only with him an hour a week. They, as a team, have to work on those skills 24/7. I knew they were doing their work at home and there was always going to be follow through.”

Taylor’s father Stephen Anthony, director of service line development for Women’s and Children at ECU Health, said Miller’s out-of-the-box thinking greatly benefited Taylor’s growth into the young man he is today.

Miller broke down the learning process, kept his steps very goal-oriented and stayed in frequent contact with the Anthony family along the way.

“She made it manageable; she made it like they were just going to visit with each other. It wasn’t like a clinical visit, it was just, ‘Hey let’s go in my office and look at some stuff,’” Stephen said. “Maybe they do some stuff on the computer, maybe they use the kitchen to make some eggs or something like that, safety skills with the oven. Stuff that nobody would ever even think of.”

Off and running

These visits also included working with Helen Houston, an occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialist, who addressed Taylor’s fitness to drive, to ensure he could approach driving safely.

Stephen said Taylor took one test as he was approaching driving age that showed his reactions and reflexes were borderline to be a driver. Before he took a driving test, he was put through the same tests, which showed about 75 percent improvement thanks to his hard work. Now, Stephen said Taylor is just as good a driver as anyone and probably safer than most his age because of the work he’s done.

Taylor said he was thankful for his time with Miller and he’s excited to take all he’s learned to Wilmington.

“It has meant a lot,” Taylor said. “I’ve definitely learned many things. It also took a lot to learn from a different perspective. My family means a lot. They’ve done everything for me to be sure I’ll be the most prepared human being. They’ll know I’ve learned enough to make good decisions and they’ll be supportive of me no matter what.”

As Taylor prepares for his first year of college, one where he’ll also compete as a member of the UNC Wilmington Cross Country team, his family knows he is prepared for different aspects of college life, thanks in part to his work with Miller.

Miller said she loved working with Taylor and can’t wait to visit with him when he returns from school and hear about his college experience.

“He was always an hour a week that I looked forward to,” Miller said. “He always had a new question for me or something new that kept me on my toes and I didn’t know what was going to be the question of the day, what we were going to have to explore and figure out. I really enjoyed that challenge. I’ve loved every minute.”

Resources

Learn more about Therapy & Rehabilitation services at ECU Health.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Winnie Miller hugs Taylor Anthony during a luncheon. They worked together over the last 14 years. Now, Taylor is heading off to college.

Featured | Health News | Therapy & Rehabilitation

Greenville, N.C. – ECU Health hospitals have received several American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Get With The Guidelines® achievement awards for their work in treating stroke, diabetes, cardiac arrest, heart attack, and heart failure.

These awards recognize the hospital’s commitment to ensuring patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

“ECU Health’s recognition by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association through the Get With The Guidelines® awards further demonstrates our commitment to providing high quality care across the region,” said Teresa Anderson, PhD, RN, NE-BC, senior vice president of quality at ECU Health. “Meeting our mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina is about creating solutions for chronic conditions that affect so many in our communities, from children, to adults, to the elderly. I am proud of the care teams recognized for their work in delivering excellent care.”

ECU Health hospitals receiving recognition include:

Hospital

Program

Awards

Stroke

Gold Plus

Target Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll

Stroke

Silver Plus

Target Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll

Stroke

Gold Plus

Target Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll

Stroke

Gold Plus

Target Stroke Elite Plus Honor Roll

Target Stroke Advanced Therapy Honor Roll

Target Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll

Mission: Lifeline STEMI

Gold Receiving

Mission: Lifeline NSTEMI

Gold

Stroke

Gold Plus

Target Stroke Elite Honor Roll

Target Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll

“We are incredibly pleased to recognize ECU Health for its commitment to caring for patients with stroke,” said Steven Messe, M.D., chairperson of the Stroke System of Care Advisory Group. “Participation in Get With The Guidelines® is associated with improved patient outcomes, fewer readmissions and lower mortality rates- a win for health care systems, families and communities.”

Stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which includes heart failure, heart attack and cardiac arrest, are among the leading causes of death in the nation. Cardiovascular disease claims more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined and is a major cause of disability.

The American Heart Association considers diabetes one of the eight major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, people living with Type 2 diabetes are two times more likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease, such as heart attacks, strokes and heart failure than people who don’t have diabetes.

According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States. The severity and likelihood of having a stroke in North Carolina is significantly higher than the rest of the country as a whole.

“These awards are another proud moment for the ECU Health system as it earns the recognition from American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for providing a high level of stroke, diabetes and cardiac care,” said Dr. Niti Armistead, chief medical officer, ECU Health. “We are proud of our care teams for demonstrating best practices and delivering life-saving care for the patients we serve. These awards are a testament to team members across the region who embody ECU Health’s commitment to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.”

Community | Neurology | Press Releases

ECU Health team members Melanie Porter and DeAnna Edwards pose for a photo.

ECU Health is proud to announce that the North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA) awarded Melanie Porter, administrator of hospital operations, and DeAnna Edwards, manager of hospital operations, the Healthier Communities award for their work in the Statewide Patient Movement Coordination Team. This award recognizes collaborative work by NCHA member organizations to promote health and well-being by addressing an identified community need.

COVID-19 has put a strain on health care systems across the globe and here in North Carolina. Throughout the pandemic, hospitals and health systems have worked tirelessly to advance new approaches to promoting more equitable health outcomes for patients, families and communities. Among these innovations, the Statewide Patient Movement Coordination Team emerged.

ECU Health team members Melanie Porter and DeAnna Edwards pose for a photo.

The Statewide Patient Movement Coordination Team is a group of individuals at transfer centers across North Carolina who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to ensure critical patients needing higher levels of care were transferred or those facilities given additional clinical support.

As part of this team, Melanie and DeAnna are both dedicated to living the ECU Health mission of improving the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. Through their work, they ensure patients have quality care and are connected to the level of care and resources needed.

The Statewide Patient Movement Coordination Team assisted 35 facilities not formally connected with the 13 transfer centers across the state who had critical patients needing higher levels of care.

In total, this team reviewed 765 patient movement requests during the Delta and Omicron surges of COVID-19.

Please join us in recognizing Melanie and DeAnna for representing ECU Health and making a difference in the lives of those we serve.

Awards | Community | Health News