For Shelby, treatment in CHKD’s inpatient rehabilitation unit is nothing new. So when she returned to the unit following surgery this summer, she quickly settled into a familiar room – the exact same room she stayed in almost a decade ago. But this time, in the room right next to hers, she saw a familiar face – her best friend, Dana, who was also recovering from surgery.

Both longtime patients at CHKD, Dana and Shelby are longtime friends, too – together since their preschool days. Now high school students at Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach, they were delighted by the unexpected overlap in their rehab stay. They even had a pizza party to celebrate their first night together in the hospital.

While inpatient rehabilitation can be intense – including three or four hours a day of physical and occupational therapy – there’s nothing like the cheers from your best friend to keep you going. “Dana and Shelby really motivated each other to achieve their therapy goals, and after their sessions, they shared stories and helped one another stay positive despite the challenges they faced each day,” says Kelly Pierce, a physical therapist at CHKD.

CHKD’s pediatric inpatient rehabilitation unit is the only one of its kind in Virginia, and children, teens and young adults from across the commonwealth and along the East Coast are admitted each year. The unit helps patients develop new skills or regain those that have been lost due to accidents, illnesses or surgeries.

“What really makes the inpatient rehab unit at CHKD special is the phenomenal team of physicians, nurses, therapists, case workers and teachers that work with patients and families every day,” says Dr. Charles Dillard, a pediatric physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at CHKD. “Our entire focus is on maximizing a child’s function and independence so they can go home safely and get back to doing what they love to do.”

Thanks to the crossover in their treatment, Dana and Shelby were able to get back to doing their favorite things before they even left the hospital – watching movies, sharing pizza and just hanging out together. “It was awesome to have a friend on the rehab unit,” says Shelby. “And I know Dana felt the same way. It was nice knowing we were there for each other.”