Identifying all viable options

photo of shatima greer

When the young patient’s complex condition left him with no place to live, social worker Shatima Greer never gave up on finding him a good home.

When the normally talkative 20-year-old suddenly grew silent and confused, his cousin brought him to the emergency room at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Tests showed that Samuel Oni had suffered a stroke. Unable to swallow, he was given a nasogastric feeding tube. He was also diagnosed positive for tuberculosis.

After months of care by neurologists, infectious disease specialists, surgeons, hospitalists, nurses, and therapists, Oni regained most of his cognitive function and began to walk. He no longer required hospitalization—but someone needed to be with him at all times.

When his cousin could not take him in, social worker Shatima Greer set out to find a place for him to go. Shelters weren’t a possibility, and no one from Oni’s large Nigerian community could find a place with around-the-clock supervision. Finally, Greer called Oni’s father in Nigeria. He loved his son but was terrified by feeding tube responsibilities. Time passed. By the time his feeding tube could be removed, Oni had been in the hospital almost three months. Now he can come, said his father. The hospital paid for airline tickets for Oni and an employee of the medical transport agency who would accompany him.

The day before departure, the agency realized that Nigeria required visas, which their employee didn’t have. Greer didn’t take time to be furious. She called the father, who found an Atlanta friend of a friend of a friend, who had dual citizenship and was willing to accompany Oni. A week later, thanks to the hospital, he was headed home with a month’s supply of medicines and a plan established by Greer through the county health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assure that he continued TB treatment.

Oni’s student visa had expired because of a missed paperwork deadline, leaving him ineligible for federal resources during his 90 days of hospitalization and medical care. That left the hospital on its own for almost half a million dollars in unreimbursed costs. But Greer recently checked in with Oni, who is doing much better and sends everyone many thanks.