Ariel Agnew was connected to our ONE Health complex care initiative after a car accident that left her in a coma and killed her younger siblings.
She says the support she has received has strengthened not only her health, but her sense of hope.
Ariel’s remarkable story – from foster care to a horrific health crisis to an independent, fulfilling life – is exactly what our ONE Health team strives for with every patient they meet.
Ariel Agnew, by anyone’s definition, has been through a lot.
She grew up in foster care, going from home to home. After moving back in with her mother as a young adult, she was in a car accident that killed her little brother and sister and left her in a coma. While she was on life support, her mother left town, leaving Ariel with nothing.
But that isn’t really Ariel’s story, at least not the one she’s writing with the help of Regional One Health’s ONE Health complex care initiative.
That story starts with her gentle smile and quiet strength. At its core are her dreams for the future and the empathy she shows to everyone she meets.
Because while Ariel Agnew has been through a lot, she still thanks God for every morning she opens her eyes and she still approaches the world with a belief that everyone deserves kindness.
“When I feel helpless, I just think about how there are people going through worse, and I try to give them a hug or a smile,” Ariel said. “I try to carry it well by smiling. I don’t like being down – I like being up, because then maybe I can help somebody else.”
Ariel said that’s what ONE Health has done for her.
ONE Health, which was created with the support of the Regional One Health Foundation and now continues to grow thanks to generous donors, employs nurses and social workers to build authentic relationships with patients, helping them lead healthy, productive lives.
In Ariel’s case, that personal connection went even deeper than usual.
After her accident, Ariel spent a month at Regional One Health on life support and several weeks in intensive care with internal bleeding and a ruptured spleen. After her release, she endured additional hospitalizations due to an airway rupture related to her accident.
It was during that time that social worker Coralotta Cromer did a double take while looking over the patient list for her ONE Health rounds. The name “Ariel Agnew” brought her back nearly a decade, to a young girl she had bonded with as a case worker in the state’s foster care system.
“I said, ‘I know this young lady! We need to go see her,’” Coralotta said. “When we got there, the first thing I noticed were her eyes. Ariel’s eyes are very distinctive. I said, ‘This is her.’ To see her in that bed, it really did something to me. I had to help her.”
For Ariel, Coralotta was not only a link to assistance, but a familiar human connection at a time she was very much alone. “I found myself in the same position I’d been in as a kid, going from house to house, couch to couch,” she said. “I was calling anyone who would let me stay with them for a couple days or until they got tired of me.”
Coralotta knew that wasn’t a safe situation for a young woman who was still healing physically and emotionally. “She needed time to grieve. I told her, ‘You don’t have to be alone in this. I’m going to walk with you. We’re a family.”
Working with the Community Alliance for the Homeless, Coralotta helped Ariel qualify for her own apartment. The Neighborhood Christian Center donated furniture; Regional One Health employees chipped in towels, bedding and dishes; and the hospital’s facilities team moved her in.
It has become a source of peace and comfort for Ariel. “I’ve got a place I can call home. A lot of people don’t have that, so I’m grateful,” she said.
She’s enjoying the simple pleasures of her own four walls, like cooking a favorite meal of chicken and mashed potatoes. Even more importantly, her hope is returning as the ONE Health team helps her regain her sense of worth. “I feel like someone cares about me. Miss Coralotta looks out for me. She knows me better than anyone, and I look at her like a mother.”
It’s allowed Ariel to continue striving for success. She is working part-time and bought a car, and her focus is to continue healing and get strong enough to help others – because despite her hardships, she wants the moral of the life story she is writing to be one of compassion and love.
“Everybody’s going through something, and it can make you a good person or a bad person. The things that happened to me made me a good person,” she said, before choosing new words that would no doubt make her ONE Health family proud.
“Actually, I was already a good person,” Ariel said. “But this made me a strong person.”