Mind Stronger, Beyond The Physical Body
Hey Revivers, if you have been following us on Instagram, you may already know about Tina. It’s an incredible story to follow along. I wish I had started video recording her since the beginning of our journey. Nearly five and half years together, and I’ve had a chance to watch her grow as a person and get stronger.
Tina has the condition of Cerebral Palsy Spastic Quadriplegia. Anytime she is upright she has to wear, on both legs, AFO braces (Ankle foot orthosis). They provide support intended to control the position and motion of the ankle, compensate for weakness, or correct deformities.
A young freshman college woman, she didn’t look more than 13 years old, controlled her mechanical wheelchair bumping into the treatment door as she tried to make the turn in. I had never in my career by myself helped to treat someone with CP. Our curiosity was mutual, and we were both eager to get started.
Her mother accompanied her; she wanted help desperately. She unbuckled clips around her feet that kept her strapped in. Along with a seat belt, as I came to find out later, she had an extension bias which means any time she exerted herself she would give her back some relief. I looked, and I said why don’t we get her to the treatment table. Tina’s mom would lift her with a bear hug while her feet dangled and brought her to the table. Tina sat like a raggedy doll on the treatment table and almost fell off. When she didn’t use strength, she was as floppy as those big teddy bears you see at Costco.
Our First Treatment
I helped her to her back and examined how many functions she had in her arms and legs and ability to roll. She had none. The Tina I first met, was nowhere near the Tina of today. However, all I saw was UP! The momentum we established could propel her to reaching new goals. There was so much potential in her all while her personality reassured me of the possibilities.
What I’ve always thought of this condition is that C.P. patients aren’t tight, but rather weak and lack sequencing for adequate control. It takes a cautious but deliberate plan to implement what I had in mind, but the question to myself when facing even my fears was, “Why not?”
I shared with Tina and her mom that the school system failed her and the past therapists abandoned her by not working on the essential function and mobility. The basics like rolling and ability to statically sit were not even there. Her mom was rendered to do everything. My goal was not just to help her mom avoid breaking her own back but to empower Tina with tools to help those that care for her. I told her as long as she didn’t give up I wouldn’t! Then she flashed her million dollar smile and said “OK!” and not only did she smile, as she usually does, but her body also smiled with a contraction and flexion moment. So we began this journey.
"Any bright ideas Dr. Lin? Where to begin? How about sitting?", I thought to myself. I propped every pillow I had in my first clinic. That was five pillows in total, and I used those from her knee up to her shoulders to prop herself up and to work on being able to sit alone.
Somewhere In The Middle
Fast forward PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitative) techniques and patterns. Verbal cues and postural strategies, sitting strategies, and many more strategies. We started with the rolling then move to quadruped. We worked on Standing and weight shifting. Scissor stances with balance. Teaching her caregivers how to get her into and out of bed. How to transfer from bed to wheelchair safely. We taught her how to clue in the caregivers to set up for success. The countless things we take for granted, we had to work on and strategize some more. Sweat, tears, brain-teasing moments with everything I knew or could even create were conducted and implemented. When I reflect on our time, I can honestly say it was hard work, but great fun to work with Tina. A real blessing in disguise for the both of us. She never gave up on me, and I never stopped believing I can learn more from her.
Now we are back to sitting. But for now with the intention of learning to use the slight board, balancing, sitting to standing. Gone are the days of Tina’s mom having to lift her with a bear hug and her feet dangling.
In the last few treatments, with only a bit of balance, she was able to stand nearly all on her own. Watch this!
I’m elated as her therapist and friend along this journey. I’ve been rewarded with achievement after achievement and smile after smile.
Life’s unfair factors may confine us to an absolute limit, but ceasing to exhibit actions is upon one’s will. Maybe if we pace ourselves one smile at a time, we earn the right to be stronger. We revive the physical body, and we learn to keep fighting! Keep up the good fight!
Heal smarter, not harder.
Dr. Justin Lin