Firelands blog empower

Published on July 19, 2017

How Firelands Children's S.P.O.T. Helped Adee Maag Beat the Odds of Cerebral Palsy

The odds of ever walking were not in Adee’s favor – that is, until she came to Firelands Children’s S.P.O.T.

When a parent hears their child may never walk, run and jump, feeling hopeless is an understatement. Those words were exactly what Jennifer Maag heard in 2013 when her two-year-old daughter, Adeline (Adee), was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

“They told us, ‘Your little girl’s never going to walk on her own,’” the Fremont resident and mother of two said. “She wasn’t talking or walking. She could only take a few steps and then fall down.”

Adee climbing a wallCerebral palsy, a neurological disorder caused by a non-progressive brain injury or malformation, occurs when a child’s brain is under-developed. It affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

The effects and impairments caused by cerebral palsy can range in severity, usually in correlation with the extent of injury to the brain. Adee was born ten weeks premature and suffered a brain hemorrhage, which led to her cerebral palsy diagnosis. The disease is incurable, but it can be treated with therapy to help manage the effects on the body.

In May 2014, the Maags decided to turn to the physical, occupational and speech therapists at Firelands Regional Medical Center’s Children’s S.P.O.T. It was there the Maags first met April Hamlin, PT, Erin Lublow, PT, Santia Sims, SLP, and Lydia Rapson, OT – three Firelands team members who, unbeknownst to Jennifer at the time, would change their lives forever.

“[Jennifer’s] family first came to try our intensive sessions, which we offer to pediatric patients,” said April Hamlin, PT. “The intensive training consists of strength training in our universal exercise unit, and functional training in the bungee system.”

Adee climbing through a tunnelThe universal exercise unit, also known as the spider cage, is what Jennifer credits as the starting point for Adee’s remarkable progress over the next few months. The universal exercise unit/spider cage is a weighted pulley system used to target isolated muscle groups for strengthening. It also has a bungee system used for core and strength training. The bungees suspend the child from eight bungee points and can be used to keep the child centered, or provide resistance or support as needed.

“Adee was able to independently stand and walk without a device after using the system,” April said. “After her three week intensive [treatment], she had made such progress with her walking and standing, that her family felt they wanted her to continue treatment with us.”

In addition to the therapy, Jennifer and her husband, Tyson, took Adee to numerous medical facilities and doctors for treatment, including St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 2015, where Adee underwent a tendon lengthening surgery that allowed her to walk correctly and with no pain. The family knew it was what they needed to do, and they trusted the great team of therapists waiting for them back home.

While Adee’s treatment continues at the Children’s S.P.O.T. today, it’s also incorporated at home. The Maag family fully engrains components of Adee’s therapy into her lifestyle to keep her from regressing.
“We have exercise equipment at home that we use, such as a treadmill,” Jennifer said. “We also do a lot of swimming. Adee has overcome her obstacles through hard work and dedication from her therapists, working at home and most importantly, herself.”

Now five years old, Adee defies the odds. She walks, runs, jumps and plays with her four-year-old sister, Emie – and you wouldn’t know she was told she’d never do those things.

“She was [finally] getting her strength back and learning to walk again,” Jennifer said. “It was a slow process, but seeing those big milestones, it blows you away.”

Firelands Children’s S.P.O.T. is known for serving children with special needs in a playful, child-centered, encouraging environment. Each therapist integrates highly specialized training into therapeutic activities and works directly with parents to promote the child’s success in therapy.

“Adee has been a shining light in our department and a joy to watch as she achieves her independence over the past several years,” April said. “We are honored that we’ve been a part of her journey.”

Throughout that journey, Jennifer has found comfort not just in her daughter’s success, but in another priceless asset she had not expected to discover at Firelands: community.

“Going through something like this, you feel alone sometimes,” Jennifer said. “But then you come here and talk to other parents, and it’s so comforting. If we wouldn’t have brought Adee here, she wouldn’t be walking.”

Learn more about the services offered at the Firelands Children's S.P.O.T. today.

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