Rosa Piwko has battled schizophrenia throughout much of her 56 years. And she’s ready to continue battling the “demons” that cloud her mind occasionally and overwhelm her when she’s not busy.
“When she goes to her classes or when she’s with me, she’s calm. But when she has nothing to do, the demons get into her and make her hear voices and imagine things,” said her father, Henoch Piwko.
The 85-year-old has cared for his beloved Rosi for the past 12 years. She used to live with her mother, who died of cancer. She then moved in with her father and his partner.
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Things did not go very well, however, and Rosa was moved to a special care home, where she has lived for a little more than a year.
She eats and sleeps there, and during the week goes to the Disability Services and Independent Living Program (DSAIL), a Miami-Dade County agency that offers aid and counseling to disabled people. Rosa participates Monday through Friday in group activity and independent living therapy sessions.
“I like math. I am very good. I love to count the money for going to the store,” Rosa said enthusiastically. She is usually withdrawn and silent, and stares into the distance through thick eyeglasses.
DSAIL provides Rosa with a space where she can socialize with other people, stay busy and keep her mind active, said Lizzette Puig, an agency specialist in services for the disabled.
Puig said the classes teach Rosa to take care of herself and praised her participation as excellent. “She likes to come, enjoys it. She learns everything we teach her,” Puig said.
It’s extremely important that Rosa continue attending the classes. But she needs $1,820 per year to pay for the special transportation she requires between home and classes.
That money would give her autonomy, because she would be able to call and ask for rides. Her father “is an elderly person and cannot be driving her back and forth every day,” Puig added.
Despite his age, Henoch Piwko picks up his daughter after school and on weekends to spend time together. She’s his daughter, after all, and he wants to please her.
“Anything she needs, I try to give it to her,” he said.
Rosa smiled and asked her father to open the photo album from her 15th birthday.
The well-preserved photos show her wearing a light pink dress, blonde hair and a big smile on her face. “It’s been a lot of years,” she said as she laughed.
Rosa walks with difficulty and does not have total control of her hands and arms, according to her father the result of the diabetes she has suffered for 20 years and the 12 pills she takes each day to control her schizophrenia.
Henoch Piwko said that when his “girl” relapses and her mind plays bad tricks on her, she is sent to a psychiatric facility for a week or two. The best prevention is to “keep her brain busy and keep her as active and independent as possible.”
“I want to go to college,” said the daughter, making it clear that she has a lot of dreams ahead of her.
How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (The most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at Miamiherald.com/wishbook .