Jennifer and son Blake
Crawling is something we’ve all experienced at one time in our lives. Hands and arms, knees and legs working together to move us to our desired destination.
Now imagine crawling but with only the use of your hands and arms. Your legs are immobile and essentially dragging behind you.
That’s what crawling is like for three-year-old Blake. Yes, boys his age usually are walking to their parents. But not Blake. He was born three months premature and with spastic quadriplegia, the most severe form of cerebral palsy. He’ll likely never walk.
Crawling is Blake’s challenge. Just a few months ago Blake didn’t have the strength to crawl. In fact, rolling from his stomach onto his back was no sure thing.
That’s where the First Steps Wellness Centre comes in. An intensive five-week program for Blake at First Steps has allowed him to not only pull off continuous rolls and possess a better sense of balance, but it also has given him the strength and the ability to use his arms independent from one another.
The sight of Blake using his arms to move himself across the floor has his mother Jennifer sporting an ear-to-ear smile. Crawling, even though it’s not the most conventional form, is a small victory.
Jennifer can remember a time not too long ago when Blake would tip over in his wheelchair and be unable to correct himself. His chair needed supports to prevent tipping.
But that’s in the past now.
Blake’s sessions at First Steps included usage of the Therasuit, an orthotic used to improve and change proprioception, reduce pathological reflexes and restore physiological muscle synergies.
As well, Blake was able to strengthen specific muscle and improve his range of motion through work with the universal exercise unit.
But his visits aren’t always all work and no play. Therapists who work with Blake are flexible in their approach and incorporate games and fun activities to pique his interest in exercises.
“But now he loves doing all of it. Has become a lot stronger so he’s able to do a lot more and it’s a lot more fun for him now,” Blake’s mom Jennifer explained.
Not only have regular sessions with First Steps made an impact on Blake’s physical capabilities, they’ve also improved his mental well being.
“He loves this program so much. He is always so excited to come here. The staff has been so amazing with him. When he’s having a bad day, they’ll switch it up and adapt with him,” Jennifer added.
“I just wanted to see if he could get closer to walking just because we didn’t see much progress in the past year. We wanted to see if there was a different way of looking at therapy that we hadn’t come across. We’ve been really happy with everything they’ve done here at First Steps. The model they use has really benefitted Blake.”
Kelly and son Kieran
The roller coaster of emotions Kieran, his parents and siblings have been riding the past three years has experienced fewer valleys lately.
Kieran’s mother Kelly is certain First Steps Wellness Centre has played a significant role in that.
A dramatic improvement in Kieran’s physical capabilities, as well as plenty of chatter and smiles has him almost unrecognizable to his family.
“He’s a completely different kid than he was a couple years ago. He was in a wheelchair and staring into space with little to no quality of life. He couldn’t talk… he was non-verbal for almost two and a half years,” explained Kelly of her 15-year-old son.
“(First Steps) is Heaven sent. I don’t know where Kieran would be without this place. We’ve seen so much improvement since we’ve started coming here,” Kelly said.
There’s hope the multiple daily seizures, induced comas and brain swelling Kieran had been suffering are in the past.
These days, Kieran is playing wheelchair basketball and Challenger baseball. He just recently wrapped up another sledge hockey season.
He’s still a reach from the healthy and active boy he was three years ago when he suffered a life-changing respiratory event that led to a brain injury, one that is yet to be fully diagnosed. Nonetheless, Kieran has the ability to compete athletically because of increased strength in his arms and core.
Prior to his treatments with First Steps staff, Kieran was described by his mother as a “ragdoll”. His sitting balance was shaky, he had difficulty holding his head up, and he had little to no ability in his left arm/hand.
For more than two years, Kieran has been working hard at First Steps on average of about three to four hours per week. He and his family have noticed a drastic improvement physically and mentally. Kieran’s balance, sitting and standing, is a lot better. He’s now able to with the support of T-bars. Situps, pushups and chin-ups also are a part of his routine.
Overall, Kieran’s energy and enthusiasm has climbed.
“Kieran is a happy kid now. The Kieran I know – because he was so athletic and loved running and playing with his friends – would be completely devastated knowing that he could never walk again and play with his friends like he used to. But he’s always smiling and that’s a good thing.”
“The staff is really great to work with. They’re great with Kieran. They don’t treat him like he doesn’t have hope. They always treat him like he has hope. He likes being here, he’s very comfortable here… he’s able to see other kids progress when they’re here and that motivates him.”