Grand Rapids birth injury lawyer shares an inspirational story: “Everyone has a place on the team,” says a track coach who pushes teen with cerebral palsy to do the impossible – walk.

A boy with cerebral palsy who previously couldn’t walk struggled through 30 feet of the high school track, crossing the finish line with a big smile on his face and the sound of loud cheering from his team and fans. This incredible feat was made possible by a track coach who believes that nothing is impossible with hard work.

Sixteen year-old Dillan McCants has had cerebral palsy since birth, when a lack of oxygen to his brain during delivery caused a brain injury called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), leaving him with cerebral palsy and an inability to walk like other children.

When Dillan moved to Phoenixville two years ago and began attending the new high school, he wasn’t sure if he’d have any friends and if people would understand his cerebral palsy.  Then Dillan met the school’s track coach, Dustin Poole, who said to Dillan, “You can do the impossible!”.  Poole gathered a team of people who began working with Dillan, giving him aggressive physical therapy.

Two years after starting the intense physical therapy, Dillan made his track debut.  He was able to walk with the help of a walker, and he became the first person with a disability to receive a varsity letter in track.  Poole told reporters that seeing Dillan cross the finish line brought him to tears and it was the greatest coaching moment of his career.  At the finish line, Dillan said that having so many people cheer him on was one of the best parts of crossing the line – aside from the fact that he was actually walking.  Dillan told reporters that the people at his high school are the best people he’s ever met and the school is also one of the best he’s attended.

Friends and classmates told reporters that Dillan continuously has a positive and upbeat attitude, despite recent setbacks.  The specially equipped van that Dillan’s family uses to transport Dillan was damaged in a flood and Dillan’s home was majorly damaged when a neighbor’s house caught on fire.  Despite these huge setbacks, Dillan has never missed a physical therapy session.

No matter what happens, Dillan can hear his coach exclaiming that he can do the impossible.  Sometimes the only motivation people need to push themselves to the max is someone to believe in them.


Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders stemming from brain damage that affects the nervous system and causes children to have problems with muscles, movement, balance and coordination.  Cerebral palsy can be severe, causing a child to essentially be paralyzed.  Children with severe cerebral palsy may require feeding through a tube that goes directly into their stomach, and they may be unable to control their bowels or bladder.  Children with mild to moderate cerebral palsy may have only one or two limbs affected by CP.

Cerebral palsy is a motor disorder.  Thus, the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy does not cause intellectual or cognitive problems in children.  A child with CP may have difficulty speaking due to poor oral-facial muscle control, but the child may be highly intelligent.  Sometimes, however, the event that caused the cerebral palsy may also have caused damage to other areas of the brain – areas that can affect a child’s cognitive functions.  This is why some children with cerebral palsy also have intellectual disabilities.


The brain injury that causes cerebral palsy does not get worse over time.  However, if proper therapy and treatment are not given to a child who has CP, long term muscle imbalance can cause further muscle dysfunction as well as serious problems with bones and joints.

Regular aggressive physical therapy is very important for children who have cerebral palsy, especially since the CP may cause them to be less active than children without the condition.  Physical therapy is performed to help muscles develop and to prevent muscle imbalance and contractures.  A contracture is a permanent shortening of a muscle, tendon or ligament.  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 high muscle tone and 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.  Severing the abnormal nerve fibers provides long-term improvement in muscle tone because the nerves do not grow back together.

Physical therapy also is performed to help 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.


Cerebral palsy often occurs during or near the time of birth.  CP can be caused by events 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 oxygen deprivation and HIE 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.


The nationally recognized 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 co-founder and 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 attorneys 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.

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. The award winning lawyers at ABC Law Centers have decades of experience with cerebral palsy and HIE cases.  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 lawyers are available 24 / 7 to speak with you.


Watch a video of birth injury attorney Jesse Reiter discussing the many treatments, therapies and activities that are available for children who have cerebral palsy.

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