She used to live in a dirt hole. Her story of transformation is proof there's always hope

She used to live in a dirt hole. Her story of transformation is proof there's always hope
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One year after becoming the poster child patient for the state's only psychiatric street medicine team, it's hard to imagine Donna Abordo ever lived on the streets.

After struggling with mental illness and homelessness for years, the 60-year-old moved into her own place nine months ago and has come to spend much of her time in the kitchen, cooking up sweets.

"Time goes by fast. Very fast," she said.

Abordo has schizophrenia.

For more than a quarter of her life, she lived in a dirt hole she dug behind a bus stop in McCully.

But that all changed once she agreed to take psychiatric medication.

Her story of transformation was among those included in HNN's special report, Prescribing Hope, which documented the street medicine team's use of a long-acting injectable medication for homeless people with severe mental illness.

"She came from a place of essentially being untreated with psychosis for 20 or 30 years," said Dr. Chad Koyanagi, of the Institute for Human Services' street medicine team. "The fact that she's gone from how she was a year ago to living in her own apartment is fairly miraculous."

MORE: Read more about Donna Abordo's incredible transformation here.
SPECIAL REPORT: See our full Prescribing Hope report here.

Much of Abordo's recovery has consisted of spending time with her IHS housing specialist so she could re-learn basic skills. Things like how to shop for herself, keep a clean house and manage her finances.

"You have to realize that when people are not medicated for a long time there is brain cell loss," said Connie Mitchell, IHS executive director. "It takes time for people to recover a lot of their abilities."

But by far the most the most critical piece of the process has been making sure she stays on her medications.

So every month Koyanagi pays Abordo a visit. During her latest check-up ,she talked about what she's been up to.

"I've kept my appointments at Safe Haven," she said. "I also have a peer coach."

As Abordo continues to make advancements in her recovery, the progress she's shown isn't lost on her.

"It's nice being indoors. It did wonders for me. Everything changed," Abordo said.

And after Prescribing Hope first aired last October, members of Abordo's family contacted IHS outreach workers. She'd lost contact with them over her years on the streets, and they hoped to reconnect.

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