Friday, October 27, 2006
Medical Reports: HEALTHCAST: Cerebral Palsy
Many kids with cerebral palsy accept they'll never walk normally. But now, a new rehab therapy is providing new hope. In tonight's Healthcast, doctors found a treatment used for injured athletes is having an amazing effect on some disabled children.
WSVN -- Swimming, splashing, sliding -- most kids in South Florida love the water, and 11-year-old Sarah Grace is no different. But this isn't fun. It's physical therapy.
Sarah is part of a study to help children with cerebral palsy walk better by training on an underwater treadmill.
For Sarah, this is just the latest challenge. She was born more than four months premature and weighed just over one pound. She was the smallest baby to ever survive at her hospital.
Teresa Harris: "She literally was a miracle. She was one-half-inch shorter than a Barbie doll."
But it wasn't until the age of 2 that Sarah was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Doctors believe the underwater treadmill will work the same way it helps rehabilitate athletes. The water resistance builds leg muscles but doesn't strain the joints.
Dr. Don Morgan, Exercise Physiologist: "It's a challenge. It'd be a challenge for anybody. They're demonstrating to themselves and to their families that, 'Hey, look what I've been able to do. I've gotten stronger. I've gotten fitter. It's a wonderful thing to be proud of."
So far, the results have been quite impressive.
Kids in the study have improved heart function, more energy to walk and more endurance.
Sarah noticed a difference on a class trip to New York.
Teresa Harris: "When we went down a flight of steps to use the restroom and when we came back up she was using them just like me. I just couldn't believe it. I said, 'Baby, look what you're doing!'"
Now, she dreams of living a normal life and someday maybe even becoming a nurse or doctor.
Sarah: "I'm more of, like, an energetic person. I mean, I would like to help people when they need help."
Doctors may soon test the treadmill on kids with other diseases that affect mobility like MS and juvenile arthritis.
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