Let’s Get Moving

Let’s Get Moving

Being first time parents can be scary. There is so much uncertainty; so many “What ifs?”. With all the new experiences that come with pregnancy and preparing for a baby to arrive, new parents have a lot to navigate and prepare for. For Matthew and Emily, Eleanor was to be their first child. There were no issues or complications throughout the entire pregnancy process; no warning signs that something might be wrong with this precious gift. Preparing for their baby to need significant early intervention services was the furthest thing from their minds.

The family was so excited when Eleanor was born. Their beautiful child had finally arrived and they loved every minute they spent together. However, by the time Eleanor was six months old, Matthew and Emily began having concerns that she did not seem to be meeting her developmental milestones. Her pediatrician told them not to worry about it, and to simply wait and give her time to catch up.

Unfortunately, waiting did not work. By the time Eleanor was a year old, she was significantly behind in virtually every developmental milestone. Doctors determined that Eleanor had generalized hypotonia (abnormally low muscle tone). Hypotonia can be a condition on its own or it can be indicative of some other condition where there is progressive loss of muscle tone. In Eleanor’s case, despite countless evaluations and genetic testing, an officially diagnosis was not given, although doctors hinted at her condition being a combination of Ataxia and Paraplegia. Whatever Eleanor’s underlying condition may ultimately be, it has led to significant developmental delays in her fine motor, gross motor and communication skills.

Eleanor began seeing a physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist. Over the course of the next year and a half, Eleanor did make some progress through these therapies, but nothing monumental. She still had not yet learned to crawl, sit up from a lying position or walk. She had very little independence in moving herself around the home. Matthew and Emily were still searching for answers.

Thankfully, Eleanor’s grandmother, Lori, works at Sara’s Garden in the hyperbaric center as its Clinic Director. She began encouraging Emily to consider bringing Eleanor to Sara’s Garden for Conductive Education (CE) services. Conductive Education believes that neurological disorders are not seen as limiting factors and that everyone has the ability to learn and thrive. Conductive Education is built on the assumption that damage to the central nervous system, which causes motor dysfunction, can be overcome by using specialized learning strategies and that the nervous system can generate new neural connections.

Conductive Education allows kids to see themselves as self-reliant, regardless of how many limitations the world tells them they have. It also helps children develop an “ortho- functioning personality,” meaning it helps them achieve educational and daily living goals via nurturance and developing a teaching plan that centers around the child and their likes and dislikes.

Matt and Emily started noticing benefits of Conductive Education after Eleanor’s very first month (4 sessions). She was beginning to make connections between the strengthening exercises she had been doing and actual, usable motions. She was using the strength in her arms, legs and core to crawl using motions and spoken commands. Her family noticed very quickly how much more Eleanor was able to do each time they saw her. Eleanor’s visiting nurse through her county’s early intervention program was also very impressed, noting that she hadn’t seen so much rapid progress before Eleanor began CE.

Emily noted that “The staff at Sara’s Garden have been great and I really appreciate their willingness to not only teach Eleanor, but also me. They are patient and explain the exercises and activities so that we can practice them at home. I’m excited to see how much more progress Eleanor can make working with these amazing conductors!”

Eleanor is now nearly 3 years old. After about 5 months of CE, it’s clear that she feels more independent. She can now walk with support from her parents and is extremely motivated and excited to move around her house on her own and go everywhere her parents go.

Thanks to Conductive Education at Sara’s Garden, Eleanor has a much brighter future. She is ready to get moving and experience far more independence than her family believed was possible. No matter what you’ve been told, there is hope… and Conductive Education can help you find it.

Life Beyond a Wheelchair… One Step at a Time

Life Beyond a Wheelchair… One Step at a Time

Who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing drive in the country on a beautiful, sunny day? Windows down… breeze blowing. Have you ever thought for one second that something as seemingly harmless as a receipt blowing in your face could alter the course of your life forever? That’s exactly what happened to Hannah.

On May 20, 2013, Hannah was driving down a country road on her way to a friend’s house. It was a warm day and the air conditioning in her car was broken so she had rolled her windows down to keep cool. A receipt from her back seat became suspended in the breeze and swirled around the car before startling Hannah by landing directly on her face.

As she reached up to brush the receipt away her car veered off the road striking a mailbox. As she regained control of the car she glanced back over her shoulder to see what she had hit. This reaction caused her to cross the centerline of the road and head straight towards the opposite ditch. In a panic, she over-corrected and lost control of the vehicle. Before she knew it, Hannah blacked out as the car was flipping over multiple times before coming to rest in a field. When she regained consciousness, Hannah realized that she could not move her legs and had no feeling from her waist down.

Hannah’s initial MRI just prior to surgery showed that she had suffered a complete spinal cord separation. Three weeks later, Hannah was tested and downgraded to a Level B incomplete spinal cord separation (T11-T12) in her lower back on the ASIA Impairment Scale. The only feeling that Hannah had below her waist was an intense burning and stinging sensation in her feet, thought to be from significant nerve damage sustained in the accident.

Hannah and her family were devastated when they learned the severity of the injury. Doctors told her that she only had a 0.1% chance of ever walking again. Hannah was determined to prove them wrong. After being released from the hospital, Hannah spent countless hours in physical therapy working towards being able to stand and take steps with leg braces. Before long, Hannah’s insurance wanted her discharged from therapy as it was felt she had reached her greatest level of attainable function. She wasn’t making enough noticeable gains. Therapists believed that Hannah was ready to live her life independently… in a wheelchair.

Hannah would not accept this limiting outlook for her future. Despite the fact that she was not yet walking, Hannah believed there was still considerable room for increased functionality and independence. Thankfully, Hannah and her family discovered Sara’s Garden. They learned how Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Conductive Education have been extremely successful in treating people who suffered from serious accidents and injuries, in many cases improving the client’s fine and gross motor skills and physical healing.

Midway through Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy treatments, Hannah started noticing feeling returning in her lower back and bladder. She also began experiencing significant relief from the burning nerve pain in her feet. She started having better results in her physical therapy sessions. Her therapists noted that she was using her legs more and was recording faster times in her exercises.

Immediately following HBOT, Hannah was evaluated for Conductive Education services. The conductors felt that Hannah could benefit from CE services, despite the fact that Conductive Education was not a widely accepted treatment modality for people with spinal cord injuries. Having just completed over 19 months in physical therapy, Hannah was skeptical about what CE would really be able to do for her but was encouraged by this new opportunity for increased independence.

Hannah began Conductive Education at Sara’s Garden on May 12, 2015, nearly two full years after her accident. It only took one week of Conductive Education to convince Hannah that this was what she had been looking for. Instead of spending her time working on accepting her fate and living independently in a wheelchair, Hannah felt challenged to push further by people who believed she could continue to progress beyond life in a wheelchair.

Hannah received Conductive Education 3-5 times per week for five months. At the time of her initial CE evaluation, Hannah was not able to maintain a free sitting position, achieve or maintain a standing position, or walk without Knee-Ankle-Foot Orthoses (KAFOs) and maximum physical help. Through Conductive Education services, Hannah’s leg strength has improved dramatically. She is now able to achieve and maintain a free sitting and standing position wearing only Ankle-Foot Orthoses (AFOs) and is currently working on walking with canes. When Hannah visits with her previous therapists they are shocked and amazed at how far she has come in only five months.

Generations ago, many people living with such severe paralysis may have been confined to wheelchairs or institutions, unable to perform even the simplest daily tasks like driving a car or getting dressed. Today, however, it is clear that people living with paralysis can live even healthier, more productive, and independent lives than was ever thought possible.

Thanks to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Conductive Education services at Sara’s Garden, Hannah now has more hope than ever before. Hope for a better quality of life. Hope for more independence and a better future. Like Hannah, no matter what you’ve been told, there is hope… and Sara’s Garden can help you find it.

Miracles For Makayla

Makayla was born a happy, healthy, little girl. Before, during and after birth there were no complications. Her family had no concerns or fears that Makayla’s life was to be anything but typical. However, when she was four months old, the unthinkable happened. Makayla started having seizures. Doctors ordered an MRI but couldn’t find an explanation for the seizures so she was simply put on medication in hopes of controlling the seizure activity.

One month later Makayla experienced a Grade 4 bilateral bleed that resulted in severe damage to her brain and caused her to slip into a coma. Doctors informed her family that Makayla would not survive the trauma of the brain bleed. They were told that even if, by some miracle, she was to recover, Makayla would live in a vegetative state for the rest of her life.

Thankfully, Makayla’s family got their miracle as she did come out of the coma. However, their elation was short lived as doctors informed them that Makayla would never be able to eat or breathe on her own. They went on to say that she would never be able to show emotion, speak, or even have the ability to make noise. Because of the extent of the brain damage they said that she would also be incapable of learning. She was later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Intractable Epilepsy, Cortical Visual Impairment and Hydrocephalus.

The brain injury caused her to have weakness and decreased control of the left side of her body as well as severe developmental, physical, oral, vision and speech delays. Makayla endured countless scans, blood tests and genetic tests but doctors were never able to determine any cause for the brain bleed. They could not find any vascular malformation or sign of anything that might have triggered the bleed.

Since that time, doctors have tried over 10 different seizure medications in hopes of controlling Makayla’s seizures. Each medication caused her to be groggy and slowed her development. As a last resort, she was placed on a very strict Ketogenic diet to try and control seizures. Nothing worked.

Makayla’s seizures had become a daily part of her family’s lives. Her family would refrain from going out much or doing anything that could possibly overstimulate Makayla as over-stimulation seemed to lead to more seizures. On her best days, Makayla would have only 2-3 seizures a day, each lasting anywhere from 20 seconds to 4 minutes. On her worst days, Makayla would suffer a seizure every five minutes all day long. One week before Makayla and her mom left home to come to Sara’s Garden, Makayla had her longest seizure to date, a 30 minute seizure which resulted in another cerebral hemorrhage.

When Makayla’s family began researching HBOT and CE at Sara’s Garden they talked to all of her doctors and specialists in hopes of receiving positive feedback. Most didn’t know enough about either process to even offer an opinion. Unfortunately some were not on board and strongly discouraged them from doing HBOT. One specialist said that because Makayla’s seizures were uncontrolled by medication, doing HBOT could possibly make her seizures worse and more frequent. This was someone that they trusted and highly respected. Going against his advice was one of the hardest decisions they ever had to make. With a lot of prayer and faith, they decided to try.

Makayla’s first HBOT treatment was April 23rd, 2012. Her very last seizure was hours before going into the chamber. A week later, Makayla looked at her mother and held her gaze for over 20 seconds, something she had never done before. Since completing HBOT and CE at Sara’s Garden, Makayla has made huge improvements. Because her brain is no longer constantly seizing, it has time to do what it’s supposed to do: learn and develop. Her vision has improved and she is able to focus more easily. The muscle tone in her neck and core has improved. Prior to coming to Sara’s Garden, Makayla only used her left arm and leg about 20% of the time. She now is using them over 85% of the time. She can hold things in her left hand as well as transfer a toy from one hand to the other or hold her hands together. She has also been experimenting with making many new noises and sounds. She now enjoys activities that would once have overstimulated her and caused more seizures.

Makayla was not expected to live. Yet three years later, she continues to thrive and progress further than all the doctors ever thought possible! Thanks to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Conductive Education at Sara’s Garden, Makayla’s family experienced yet another miracle. She once had the muscle tone of a wet noodle and would spend most of her day coping with the ravaging effects of seizures. She can now hold her head up, sit independently with the assistance of arm splints, walk with assistance, and most importantly… Makayla has been seizure-free since the day she started treatments. Miracles never cease.

No matter what you’ve been told, there is hope… and Sara’s Garden can help you find it.

‘Never’ Should be a 4 Letter Word

‘Never’ Should be a 4 Letter Word

Joshua was born at only 26 weeks. Doctors were unable to determine any cause for the premature delivery. Shortly after his birth, he experienced a Grade 4 intraventricular hemorrhage. This prolonged internal bleeding resulted in severe trauma and damage to his brain. According to the doctors, Joshua would never survive.

In what would mark the first in a long list of overcoming ‘nevers’ placed on him by others, Joshua lived. Due to issues with his biological parents’ home life, Joshua became a ward of the state, placing further uncertainty on his long term survival. Following Joshua’s successful fight to recover from his traumatic birth, the foster care system was told that he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life. They needed to understand that there were no positive expectations for Joshua’s life. Any prospective foster parents would need to realize the severity of his condition and come to terms with what his life most certainly would and would not be.

Joshua was given a list of ‘nevers’… things he could not, and would not ever accomplish. He would never walk. He would never talk. He would never eat on his own. He would never be able to take care of himself. He would need drugs to control his condition for the rest of his life. He would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. As he grew, no one would be able to take care of him on their own. He should be put in a home that would be equipped to meet his countless needs.

What a sad, limiting prediction for life. Thankfully, Joshua’s story doesn’t end with the ‘nevers’.

Joshua’s condition has since been diagnosed as Hemiplegia, a severe form of Cerebral Palsy. The damage to his brain caused him to have weakness and decreased control of the right side of his body as well as obvious developmental, physical and speech delays. Joshua has been in occupational, physical and speech therapy for most of his young life. At the age of 3, Joshua was adopted. By this time he was able to speak. While he had a limited vocabulary, he was able to accomplish one more thing that he had been told he would never do.

Just prior to his 4th birthday, Joshua began taking Conductive Education classes at Sara’s Garden. He was still unable to walk without the assistance of another person, wheelchair, or walker. After spending six months in the CE program at Sara’s Garden, Joshua was walking and playing with his brothers and friends. Through much hard work he has been able to overcome more and more of the hurdles that were originally said to be impossible!

At 4½ years of age, Joshua began having seizures. According to the doctors, his test results showed that the seizures were coming from the area of his brain that had been most damaged at birth. After spending 3 long days in the hospital, his family was told that there was nothing more that could be done for Josh except to medicate him. Not wanting to accept this fate, Joshua began receiving Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy treatments at Sara’s Garden.

His family noticed changes taking place in Joshua immediately. This shy, quiet little boy was emerging out of his shell. After completing a round of 40 HBOT treatments Joshua is seizure free. Additionally, his focus and awareness has improved, his vocabulary has expanded and the use of the right side of his body has increased.

Thanks to Conductive Education and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at Sara’s Garden, Joshua has a much brighter future. The list of ‘nevers’ that he was given is gone. He has successfully checked off each and every limitation that was placed on him at birth.

No matter what you’ve been told, there is hope… and Sara’s Garden can help you find it.

Hard Work Pays Off for William

Hard Work Pays Off for William

William Denver Burton was born not breathing and, as a result, suffered hypoxia – a lack of oxygen to the brain. His family went through two life flights, with many scary times following. After six months, it became obvious to William’s mother Angie that he was not developing as a normal baby should. That was when the typical treatment approach began – physical and occupational therapy one or two times a week.

William began individual Conductive Education sessions around ten months of age. At that time, William presented with severe hypotonia, or extremely low muscle tone. He was unable to nod or shake his head, roll over continuously, ambulate in any way, achieve a sitting position, or participate in the process of standing up. William had little to no social skills, could not or would not pick up food and bring it to his mouth, did not vocalize, and had chewing problems.

Around approximately 12 months old, William began attending a more intensive group CE program. With the help of his parents and caregiver, William began to learn the crucial skills required to meet the milestones of rolling over, sitting up, and moving around more independently.

William has continued in the group CE program over the past two years and has achieved so much, including sitting up from lying; maintaining a hands-and-knees kneeling position; standing up from a seated position with his walker; and walking just about everywhere independently with the use of his walker.

The achievements are not just limited to physical skills however. He no longer has chewing problems and picks up and brings food to his mouth willingly. After eating, William opens the container of baby wipes independently, pulls one out, closes the container, and cleans his face independently.

His verbalizations are becoming more clear, and his vocabulary has expanded to approximately 25 easily understandable words and names of friends, teachers, and caregivers. His mother is amazed at how dramatically his verbalization has increased since beginning Conductive Education.

William is now incredibly social. He enjoys interacting with peers, he waves and smiles appropriately, and enjoys a good joke.

Currently William is learning to walk with tripod canes. It began slowly, as every individual part of the process must be learned. When William first began using the canes, he needed physical help to keep his balance to stand with the canes, move a cane forward, and take a step. After a few months, William now requires only verbal help to remind him what he needs to do. He can stand safely for several minutes on his own with the canes and he can move the canes forward on his own.

At three and a half years old, William is now able to attend preschool full-time. “The results are just phenomenal,” William’s mother has commented, “It’s just amazing how independent he has become since he’s started Conductive Education. William is such a hard worker. We are very proud of all of the accomplishments he has made.”

Thanks to Conductive Education at Sara’s Garden, Will has a much brighter future. No matter what you’ve been told, there is hope… and Conductive Education can help you find it.

Omira is Overcoming Her List of Nevers

Omira is Overcoming Her List of Nevers

Weighing in at only one pound seven ounces, Omira was born at just 25 weeks of gestation (Babies are not considered full-term until 37 weeks). Omira spent the first three months of her life in an incubator, and was in the hospital for a total of four months before finally getting to come home.

While in the hospital, a great deal of damage was done to Omira’s vocal cords. The doctors informed Adelina, Omira’s mother, that Omira would never be able to talk. In fact, Adelina was given a long list of ‘nevers’… things that Omira would never be able to accomplish… walking, talking, potty training… Even with this bleak prognosis of what her life would be like and despite exhibiting all of the telltale developmental delays. it wasn’t until Omira was 2 years old that she was finally diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy.

Omira immediately began receiving the traditional treatment for cerebral palsy – physical and occupational therapy – one to two times each week. This went on for three years, with the family seeing very little progress in Omira’s development.

Finally, when Omira was 3½ years old and about to enter preschool, she was referred to the Conductive Education Program at Sara’s Garden by school administrators. When she arrived at Sara’s Garden to attend her first CE session, her little body was curled up into itself. She was completely unable to bear any weight on her legs or use them purposefully. She did not speak… in fact, she actually cried for the entirety of her first session (2 hours a day, 4 days a week for 4 whole weeks). She showed no interest in peers, teachers, or participating in any physical activity.

Then an amazing thing happened, Omira began to change. She stuck with the program and began to develop in every aspect – socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. The crying stopped too. Omira began to use short, two-word phrases to express her wants and needs. She began showing interest and excitement toward attempting new physical tasks. After one year in the Conductive Education program, Omira’s mother commented, “Now I can see my daughter.”

This child who came to Sara’s Garden with a list of ‘nevers’ continues to learn and develop and cross items off that ‘never’ list she was given… her mother is constantly amazed and says, “She has learned to do things that we never expected her to do.”

Omira now stands behind a ladder supporting her own body weight with only minimal supervision. She is in the early stages of learning to take steps with the help of an adult. She sits independently on a stool with no supports or straps. She now speaks in complete, polite sentences like, “I would like the pink cup, please.” Omira participates fully in the group routine and enjoys taking on a leader role. She has developed facial expressions and uses them appropriately.

“We are very pleased to be in a special place like this,” Omira’s mother has commented. Since we started coming to Sara’s Garden, I love it here. They have worked with her very well and she has progressed a lot!”

Thanks to Conductive Education at Sara’s Garden, Omira has a much brighter future. No matter what you’ve been told, there is hope… and Conductive Education can help you find it.