AJ Jones was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth. When he was adopted by Patricia and Henry Jones, the Atlanta home was difficult for AJ to move around in with his wheelchair. AJ is unable to walk, stand or sit up on his own, and he needs a lot of assistance in every aspect of his life. His ability to communicate is limited, but he enjoys watching football and listening to music. He depends on therapeutic services and medical care, which include daily breathing treatments to help his asthma. AJ’s bedroom is not large, and the space was always occupied by a lot of medical equipment. AJ’s father had to carry him over steps throughout the home, and bath time was a cumbersome chore because the bathroom was narrow and special care has to be taken when it comes to AJ’s delicate spine, which is fused.
Everything was made a lot easier for this loving family, however, when Sunshine on a Ranney Day and Dream House for Kids spent two weeks gutting and renovating the family’s home. Ramps were placed throughout the home, and AJ now glides smoothly from room to room. The bathroom is complete with a roll in shower, and Patricia says this makes bath time and caring for AJ a lot easier. Indeed the entire home makes AJ’s daily routine safer and better.
The biggest surprise came when AJ was welcomed into his new home by his favorite NFL players, Ryan Schraeder and Harland Gunn of the Atlanta Falcons. When AJ arrived in his new bedroom, he was ecstatic to see the entire room decorated in Falcons colors, complete with a large, flat-screen television and autographed football. Ryan and Harland hung out with AJ, and the teenager was smiling from ear to ear.
Cerebral palsy is group of disorders that affect a child’s muscle tone, movement, posture, balance and coordination. It is caused by an injury to the developing brain, and it can occur anytime until a child is about three years of age, although the condition may not be noticed and diagnosed until a child is 4 or 5 years of age.
Cerebral palsy can occur during or near the time of labor and delivery. The most common cause of cerebral palsy during this time period is oxygen deprivation in the baby’s brain. An injury caused by oxygen deprivation is called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). HIE occurs when there is an abnormally low amount of oxygen in the baby’s blood, or when there is a decreased level of blood in the baby’s brain.
Causes of oxygen deprivation / HIE and resultant cerebral palsy include the following:
- Ruptured uterus (womb)
- Preeclampsia / eclampsia
- Placental abruption
- Umbilical cord problems, such as a nuchal cord or umbilical cord prolapse
- Postmaturity syndrome
- Prolonged and arrested labor
- Placenta previa
- Failure to quickly deliver a baby when fetal distress is evident on the fetal heart rate monitor (delayed emergency C-section)
- Oligohydramnios (low amniotic fluid)
- Premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) / premature birth
- Intracranial hemorrhages (brain bleeds), which can be caused by a traumatic delivery. Forceps and vacuum extractors can cause brain bleeds. Sometimes intense contractions (hyperstimulation) caused by labor induction drugs (Pitocin and Cytotec) can cause head trauma. Mismanagement of cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD), abnormal presentations (face or breech presentation), and shoulder dystocia also put a child at risk of having a brain bleed.
- Hyperstimulation caused by Pitocin and Cytotec can also cause oxygen deprivation that gets progressively worse.
- Improper management of the baby’s respiratory status after birth. This includes failure to properly manage apnea (periods of breathing cessation), failure to properly manage a baby on a breathing machine (which can cause overventilation injuries, such as hypocarbia and a hole or holes in the lungs), and failure to give proper amounts of surfactant, which helps with lung maturity and lung compliance in premature lungs.
- Anesthesia mistakes, which can cause blood pressure problems in the mother, including a hypotensive crisis.
- Improper management of anemia (low red blood cell count), which can cause the baby to lack the capacity to carry oxygen to the cells and tissues in the body, including brain cells.
Other causes of cerebral palsy include:
- Untreated or improperly treated neonatal hypoglycemia.
- Brain infection such as meningitis, which can be caused by infections in the mother that travel to the baby at birth. These maternal infections include the following: Group B Strep (GBS), herpes simplex virus (HSV), urinary tract infection (UTI), bacterial vaginosis (BV) and chorioamnionitis.
- Untreated or improperly treated high bilirubin levels (jaundice) that cause a form of brain damage called kernicterus.
CEREBRAL PALSY AND THE CHILD’S LIFESTYLE
When a child has cerebral palsy, movement can be very difficult and tiring. The muscles don’t work together, and in fact, they work against each other. This means that children often have to use crutches, walkers or wheelchairs to get around. Cerebral palsy can affect one, two, three or all four limbs.
Lifelong, intense physical therapy is critical for these children. In addition, other therapies and treatments are usually necessary to help the child be as independent as possible. There is a wide array of adaptive equipment that can enhance the lives of children with cerebral palsy, and homes and cars must be accessible for these very special children.
The world renowned college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan has several programs for children with cerebral palsy. Three years ago, a $745 million dollar children’s hospital was built, called C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The new hospital is considered the largest and most sophisticated project in campus history, and it has one of the most extensive programs for cerebral palsy, called Cerebral Palsy Comprehensive Care. Parents travel from hundreds of miles away to bring their children to Ann Arbor for cerebral palsy therapy and treatment, including groundbreaking surgery.
Programs provided by Cerebral Palsy Comprehensive Care in Ann Arbor include the following:
- Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR – surgery)
- CHAMP Program
- ACE Lab
- ULTRA Program
- Ventilator Clinic
- Baclofen Pump Program
SUNSHINE ON A RANNEY DAY FOUNDATION
The mission of Sunshine on a Ranney Day is to transform a child’s special space into a comfortable and personalized place that is an escape from everyday struggles. These home makeovers are created after the founders of the foundation, Peter and Holly Ranney, hear each child’s story and individual struggles. The couple understands that when one member of the family is affected by a long-term illness, the entire family is affected. Holly and Peter try to make each family member’s space feel like it is the best, and they never forget to create an amazing family room where the entire family can be together and feel happy and comfortable.
Dream House for Kids
Dream House for Kids provides support and resources for medically fragile children and their families, with an emphasis on empowering families to care for their children at home. This often includes medical technology that can make care for the child very complex. The goal of Dream House is to increase opportunities for special needs and fragile children so they can live in a stable, comfortable and permanent home environment.
HELP FOR CHILREN WHO HAVE CEREBRAL PALSY
Jesse Reiter, co-founder of ABC Law Centers, is the only attorney in Michigan who has spent his entire 25+ year career focusing on birth injury cases, and most of his cases involve children with cerebral palsy. Jesse helps children in Michigan and throughout the nation, and he has won numerous awards for his advocacy of children. Jesse is currently recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice attorneys in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, as well as one of the 10 Best Attorneys in Michigan by Super Lawyers magazine.
Jesse is passionate about helping children, and he has held many leadership positions in organizations that advocate for their rights. A few years ago, Jesse was the President of the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ), and he is currently the Co-Chair of the MAJ Judicial Qualifications Committee. The MAJ is one of the nation’s most powerful groups that advocates for and creates laws that protect patients’ rights. Jesse is also very active in the Birth Trauma Litigation Group, and he is the immediate past Co-Chair of the organization.
For well over two decades, the award winning attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have been helping families throughout the nation affected by cerebral palsy. The firm is nationally recognized in the field of birth injury law and has a track record of multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attests to its success. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, email or call Reiter & Walsh today for a free consultation: 888-419-2229.