Baby with Cerebral Palsy says “Mumma” for the First Time

Hearing the word “mumma” from their little girl brought tears to the eyes of Sally and Ryan Fromm.  This young couple was told that their first and only child, Laila, may never talk, see, hear or walk due to an event during birth that caused the baby to experience a severe lack of oxygen in her brain.  The oxygen deprivation caused the newborn to have a brain injury called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).  Right after birth, doctors diagnosed Laila with evolving cerebral palsy and they gave the baby only a 50% chance of survival, telling Sally and Ryan that Laila had moderate to severe brain damage.

Shortly after the cerebral palsy diagnosis, Laila was flown to a specialty hospital and her diagnosis worsened as her organs started failing, which often occurs when a baby has hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy.  Laila’s organs recovered and Sally and Ryan knew their little girl was a fighter.

Laila began physical therapy when she was only a few months old.  Now, at 19 months of age, Laila and her parents travel five times a week to a city where a team of specialists work with the toddler.  It is a critical stage for Laila because this is the age when most children learn to walk.  At home, Sally and Ryan also work hard with Laila.  Laila’s brain does not tell her muscles to relax, so the parents do a lot of physical therapy, trying to get Laila to stand up so her hips and pelvis become stronger and eventually enable the little girl to stand on her own.  Laila struggles with standing up and trying to support herself, but with her fighting spirit, she is adapting.

The 5 day a week therapy and treatment sessions are very costly, but friends of Sally and Ryan own a vineyard and are selling a signature wine to help raise money for Laila’s sessions.  The wine is named after the little girl and is being sold at Murray Street Vineyards and TeAro Estate Wines in Williamstown.

Laila’s treatments include conductive education and specialized rehabilitation, but there are numerous treatments and therapies available for children who have hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy.


Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

The best treatment for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is hypothermia treatment, sometimes called brain or body cooling treatment.  Hypothermia treatment must be given within 6 hours of the event that caused the lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain and HIE.  The more severe the brain damage, the sooner the treatment should be given.  Hypothermia treatment involves either placing a baby on a cooling blanket or having the baby wear a cool cap for 72 hours.  The baby’s core temperature is lowered a few degrees below normal, to 91 degrees Farenheit, 33 degrees Celsius.

Research shows that giving brain / body cooling treatment decreases the chances that a baby will develop cerebral palsy or motor disabilities and it can also reduce the severity of the hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and resultant cerebral palsy.  Hypothermia treatment for HIE halts almost every cellular process involved in brain injury, which is why early diagnosis of HIE is crucial.

Cerebral Palsy

There have been exciting developments in the area of cerebral palsy treatment and therapy.  Groundbreaking research has led to developments that are helping children take their first unaided steps.  The earlier treatment begins, the better.  Aggressive physical therapy is essential to prevent contractures that are common in spastic cerebral palsy, which is the most common type of CP.  A contracture is a permanent shortening of a muscle, tendon or ligament.  In addition, physical therapy is performed to help muscles develop and to prevent muscle imbalance.  Physical therapy also helps a child get used to using muscles that typically don’t get used.  In addition, many therapists use techniques that encourage brain re-mapping, which requires the child and therapist to use certain machines and do targeted exercises that help the child’s brain develop different pathways with the goal of improving muscle function.

Surgical release can be performed to help relieve tightened or shortened muscles.  Another type of surgery that can help children with cerebral palsy is selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).  SDR is performed on the lower spinal cord to reduce spasticity in the legs.  During the surgery, abnormal nerve fibers that cause muscle tightness are cut. The goal of SDR is to relax the muscles by identifying and cutting only those nerve fibers that contribute to tightness.  When SDR is followed by months of aggressive physical therapy, it can improve the child’s ability to move and control her muscles.  SDR may also reduce the need for future orthopedic surgeries.

The best cerebral palsy programs incorporate specialists from a wide array of fields, focusing on making the child as independent as possible.

Treatments and therapies for cerebral palsy include the following:

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Specialists that help children with swallowing, respiratory problems, speech problems, activities of daily living, psychosocial issues, and bone, joint and muscle problems are a very important part of cerebral palsy treatment programs.  Specialists should be on-site to help children with crutches, walkers and wheelchairs.  In addition, therapists should meet regularly with each child and her family in order to target the child’s specific goals.


Cerebral palsy is often caused by an injury to a baby’s brain during or near the time of delivery.  Usually the injury is caused by an event that caused a lack of oxygen in the baby’s brain.  Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation or restricted blood flow.

Improperly managed conditions that can cause cerebral palsy include the following:

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 cesarean (C-section) delivery is the fastest and safest way to deliver a baby who is in distress.


The award winning lawyers at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have been helping children with cerebral palsy throughout the nation for over two decades.  Jesse Reiter, the firm’s president, 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 and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).  When Jesse and his team of lawyers take a case, they spend a lot of time getting to know the child and family they are helping so they 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.

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Cerebral palsy and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) are difficult areas of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the disorders and the medical records that support them.  When looking for a lawyer, it is not only important to hire one who focuses on birth injury, but the lawyer you hire should have experience with your child’s specific condition.  The nationally recognized lawyers at ABC Law Centers have decades of experience with cerebral palsy and HIE cases and have handled cases that involve many different types of mismanaged labor and delivery events.

To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with an experienced lawyer.  We handle cases in Michigan, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation and we give personal attention to each child and family we help.  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.  Our firm’s attorneys are available to speak to you 24 / 7.


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Watch a video of Michigan birth injury lawyer Jesse Reiter discussing how a lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain can cause a brain injury called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which often leads to cerebral palsy.  Brain damage often occurs when a baby is experiencing oxygen deprivation and physicians fail to deliver her quickly enough by emergency cesarean (C-section) delivery.

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