Lansing-area girl with cerebral palsy outruns her disabilities

Margaux Wellman is teenage girl whose smile lights up a room.  Margaux was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy shortly after birth, and until she was in the sixth grade, she spent almost all of her time in a wheelchair.  Margaux’s intense treatments and physical therapy paid off, and shortly before becoming a teenager, Margaux could walk short distances.  Her walking kept improving, and Margaux decided that she wanted to run track like her twin and older sisters who are both record holders in multiple running events.

Margaux’s walking looks very labored; her legs and arms both scissor inward and don’t appear to work together.  But when she stated that she wanted to be on the track team, her coach and family helped her do just that.  Margaux began running shorter distances, with her father waiting at the end of the run with a wheelchair.  With training, she began running farther and farther until she was able to run 400 meters, which is a quarter of a mile.  Her pace is very slow; she runs 400 meters in the time it takes the other girls to run 3 miles. Her father still waits for her at the end of each run with a wheelchair, but now Margaux is doing 400 meter runs in competition with other girls from her high school and around the state.  She is on the track team with her twin, and when she runs, it sounds as if the entire crowd is cheering for her.

At the end of each race, Margaux’s dad shows her the stop watch.  Margaux smiles every time she finishes because each time she runs, she has a personal record.  The sense of happiness and accomplishment that running gives Margaux inspired her to take on a 5k race.  Last year, she finished the Bay City St. Patrick’s Day 5k race in an hour, and she told her coach and family that she was very proud.

Just like the other girls on the track team, Margaux sets goals for herself and feels very happy when she reaches or supersedes them.

“There’s definitely challenges in life.  I’ve had plenty of surgeries, and I do things differently than other children,” Margaux said.  “But I’m as smart as the other kids.  I’m just – I’m normal.  There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Margaux and her twin were born prematurely at 28 weeks. Margaux weighed about two pounds.  Margaux’s sister was perfectly healthy after birth, but Margaux was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after she was born.  Twin pregnancies increase the risk of premature birth, and premature birth puts a baby at risk of having birth injuries and breathing problems after birth.  Breathing problems can cause overventilation injuries as well as problems with oxygenation, both of which can cause cerebral palsy.


Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that causes problems with movement, coordination and balance.  It is caused by an injury to the developing brain, which means that cerebral palsy can occur until a child is approximately three years of age.  Sometimes, however, cerebral palsy is not diagnosed until a child is about four or five years old.

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type and it affects 70 – 90% of all children who have cerebral palsy.  In spastic cerebral palsy, the muscles do not coordinate in pairs the way they are supposed to.  Instead of opposing muscles working together to create smooth movement, muscle groups become active at the same time, which blocks coordinated movement.  The muscles in children with spastic cerebral palsy are constantly stiff (spastic), and the child has stiff, jerky movements.

The major difference between spastic diplegia (spastic cerebral palsy that primarily affects the lower body) and a normal walking pattern is the “scissor gait,” which is when a child’s knees appear to cross like scissors.

Scissor gait is characterized by the following traits:

  •          Hips and pelvis are often locked, as if crouching while walking
  •          Knees and thighs may cross or touch while walking
  •          Ankles may be turned inwards while walking
  •          Feet often make contact with the ground primarily at the ball of the foot, not the heel (may look like “tip toe” walking)
  •          Arms and hands may go outwards from the body to provide balance

There are many conditions that can occur during or near the time of delivery that, if not properly managed, can cause cerebral palsy.  Most often, these conditions involve oxygen deprivation in the baby.  Mismanaged conditions that can deprive a baby of oxygen include placental abruption, uterine rupture, umbilical cord prolapse, nuchal cord, brain bleeds caused by forceps or vacuum extractor use, and failure to recognize fetal distress on the fetal heart rate monitor.  When a baby is showing signs of distress, it means she is being deprived of oxygen and must be delivered very quickly.  Most of the time, a C-section delivery is the safest way to deliver a baby who is in distress.


The attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have been helping children with cerebral palsy in Lansing and throughout the nation for over two decades.  Jesse Reiter, the firm’s co-founder, has been focusing on birth injury cases his entire 25+ year career, and most of Jesse’s cases involve helping children who have cerebral palsy.  When he takes a case, he spends a lot of time getting to know the child and family he is helping so that he can fully understand the child’s needs.  Jesse has won many awards for his advocacy of children, and he is currently recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice lawyers 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. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is also recognized as being one of the best law firms in the country by U.S. News and World Report 2014.

Cerebral palsy is a difficult area of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the disorder and the medical records that support it. The nationally recognized attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have decades of experience with cerebral palsy cases. To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with an experienced attorney.  We handle cases in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation.  We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case.  Email or call us at 888-419-2229.

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