We recently wrote about some of the youngest kids to compete in triathlons. Their ages – both are under the age of 10 – aren’t the most incredible part of the story. The brothers, Conner and Cayden, compete as a team. Cayden has spastic cerebral palsy and cannot walk or speak verbally. During the triathlons, Conner pulls Cayden in a jogger while running, tows him in the jogger while cycling and pulls him on a raft while swimming. Seeing the huge smile on Cayden’s face during the events and after crossing the finish line makes it easy to see why the family has made triathlon competition a centerpiece of their lives.
Connor gets very upset when he walks down the street and people stare at Cayden and use the “r” word, stating that Connor may look a bit different than other kids, but he has the same feelings as everyone else. Connor has always striven to find ways for Cayden to be able to play with him, and when he saw his mother turn the page of an ad for a kids’ triathlon, he immediately knew he could find a way to do the water and sun-filled event with his brother. The boys’ mother, Jenny, initially looked at Connor with skepticism because she had no idea how they could do it. Connor explained the idea of using a jogger and raft, the family contacted a triathlon coach, and the boys were soon at an event. The swim went very well at that first triathlon, but when Cayden had to be pulled by the coach during the bike portion, he made it very clear to everyone that he wanted only Connor to pull him. Connor attached his best buddy’s jogger to his bike, and Cayden grinned from ear to ear.
The brothers have competed in several triathlons and other races since then, and they were even named Sports Kids of the Year by Sports Illustrated Kids. Connor, now 10 years old, has had to bump up his training a notch because Cayden, age 8, actually weighs more than he does. Jenny teases her boys, saying that she can’t even push Cayden around the house anymore, but she greatly respects Connor for doing it while racing in a grueling triathlon.
PARKS FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS AND CEREBRAL PALSY
A company called Miracle Recreation read about the love the brothers have for each other and the joy they get in playing and competing together. When Miracle Recreation found out that the nearest special needs accessible playground was over an hour away from the boys’ home, the company decided to build one in the brothers’ hometown of White House, Tennessee.
Miracle Recreation let Connor pick out the features of the playground, and the playground was named “Roll Around the Park.” The 4,600 square foot park opened last month, and all children can access it. Connor said that when Cayden first saw the park, he almost jumped out of the car, he was so excited. Cayden’s favorite part of the park is the Ten Spin, which allows him to sit in a bucket seat while other kids stand and spin him around.
The playground also has a Pull Along, which enables children to either slide or crawl under a horizontal ladder, an Accelerator Swing, that allows children in wheelchairs and walkers to swing, and a ground-level play pane that give kids auditory and sensory stimulation.
A director for Miracle Recreation told reporters that Connor seems to instinctively know that children need to do something that requires movement and challenges and inspires imagination – something other than just sitting in front of television and video games.
The family plans to spend as much time as they can at the playground – in between racing, of course.
WHAT IS CEREBRAL PALSY AND WHAT CAUSES IT?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that cause a child to struggle with movement and, in many cases, be confined to a wheelchair. CP affects a child’s muscle tone, movement, balance and posture. It is caused by damage to the developing brain, which means it can occur until a child is approximately 3 years of age. Sometimes cerebral palsy isn’t diagnosed until a child is 4 or 5 years of age, however, when certain developmental milestones are missed.
SPASTIC CEREBRAL PALSY
Spastic cerebral palsy, sometimes called hypertonic cerebral palsy, is the most common type of CP. Normally, muscles coordinate in pairs; when one group of muscles contract (tighten), the other group relaxes. This allows free movement. In spastic cerebral palsy, complications in brain-to-nerve-to-muscle communication occur and a balanced degree of muscle tension is disrupted. Muscles affected by spastic cerebral palsy become active at the same time, which blocks coordinated movement. Thus, the muscles in children with spastic cerebral palsy are constantly stiff, or spastic, and movement is jerky, stemming from an abnormally high muscle tone, called hypertonia. Spastic quadriplegia involves both the arms and legs, and spastic diplegia primarily affects the lower body. The major difference between spastic diplegia and a normal walking pattern is the “scissor gait,” which is when a child’s knees appear to cross like scissors.
Cerebral palsy often occurs during or near the time of delivery. It can be caused by conditions that cause brain bleeds, a lack of oxygen in a baby’s brain (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)), infection that travels from the mother to the baby at birth, and mismanaged neonatal hypoglycemia and hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice).
Mismanaged conditions that can cause a lack of oxygen in the baby’s brain include placental abruption, uterine rupture, umbilical cord prolapse, nuchal cord (cord wrapped around the baby’s neck), brain bleeds caused by forceps or vacuum extractors, 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 fastest and safest way to deliver a baby who is in distress.
REITER & WALSH: ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN WITH CEREBRAL PALSY FOR OVER 25 YEARS
Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is a national birth injury law firm that has been helping children for over two decades. Michigan cerebral palsy lawyer Jesse Reiter, the president and co-founder of the firm, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 25 years. He is currently recognized as one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best law firms in the nation. The lawyers at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).
If your child was diagnosed with a permanent disability, such as cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), intellectual disabilities or developmental delays, the award winning lawyers at ABC Law Centers can help. We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent. Our nationally recognized firm has 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 Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation.
Watch a video of Michigan cerebral palsy lawyer Jesse Reiter discussing the causes of cerebral palsy. Often, CP occurs when a baby is experiencing a lack of oxygen in her brain and the physicians fail to deliver her quickly enough by cesarean (C-section) delivery, causing a brain injury called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).