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news News Tuesday, August 6, 2019 Monday, August 5, 2019 3:23 PM - Monday, August 5, 2019 3:23 PM

Cerebral palsy patient embodies the Shriners Hospitals for Children spirit

Zoey’s story

Cerebral palsy patient embodies the Shriners Hospitals for Children spirit

When Zoey was around 2 years old, staff members from the Utah Health Department’s Early Intervention Program recommended she be seen by the specialists at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City. Zoey was born with the most common developmental disorder in the U.S., cerebral palsy. Due to her inability to stand or walk, her grandmother and guardian, Joy, hoped Shriners Hospital could offer hope when she brought her in for an evaluation.

She was soon scheduled to see physical therapist Mark Lange, MPT, to help increase her mobility. In those early years, Zoey cried at every appointment. Joy remembers that Mark never gave up on her and continued to give energy and enthusiasm even though Zoey struggled. When Zoey got a little older, she stopped crying and developed a crush on Mark. “And now, he is her buddy!” said Joy.

Zoey’s buddy and physical therapist, Mark, said a favorite part of his job is the ability to be an active participant in the growth and development of a child. “Over the years working with Zoey,” said Mark, “I have been able to witness her development. She has become a fantastic young woman.” Mark is impressed by her drive and hard work to achieve her goals. He also appreciates her smile, which lights up the room when she rolls in. “What I admire the most about Zoey is her willingness to share herself. Zoey is a creative, talented young woman and does not miss an opportunity to help out when called upon. I have felt Zoey’s impact on my life, and I am patiently watching to see the mark that she will leave on the world.”

Over the years, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City has offered more than therapy services to this young powerhouse. She has had multiple surgeries, benefited from wheelchair services and has received custom braces from Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services – West, LLC, at the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital.

Joy says the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital staff has been an incredible help with Zoey's self-confidence, and has helped her feel like she’s not different. She also appreciates the independence Zoey has been able to achieve by being able to get around on her own. “The staff are amazing,” Joy said. “They always go the extra mile. They have helped in so many ways. It’s hard to name all of the staff members who have made a difference because there have been so many. We love all of the employees.”

Another staff member that Zoey and Joy have gotten to know is John A. Heflin, M.D. Dr. Helfin performed Zoey’s most recent surgeries, and has seen her through one of her most difficult times. “Dr. Heflin stole our hearts from day one,” said Joy.

Dr. Heflin returns the sentiment. “Zoey has always been special to me,” said Dr. Helfin. “She has a warm heart and an adventurous personality. She was a little down when I first met her. I think pain and difficulty with her seating was taking its toll. Following surgery, she has really blossomed. She has started paragliding again and is always nothing but smiles in clinic. I could not be happier for her.”

The paragliding Dr. Heflin refers to is a hobby she picked up last year when she was connected with Project Airtime, a nonprofit organization specializing in taking individuals with special needs up in the air at the south end of Salt Lake Valley.

Staff members at the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital recognized Zoey’s interest in adventurous activities early on. Recreation therapist Laura Lewis Hollingshead, CTRS, TRS, has connected Zoey with many opportunities for adventure. Opportunities include Miracle League, a baseball program through Salt Lake County, magic camp at the hospital and being a patient ambassador for the Salt Lake City hospital. “Zoey is tenacious,” said Laura. “She is not a quitter. When she has a goal, she gives it 110%! It’s so fun to watch her go after whatever is put in front of her.”

Joy appreciates all the things Zoey has been able to achieve with the recreation therapist’s help. “I don’t know what I would have done without Laura,” said Joy.

Zoey now does her part to give back. When she comes to the hospital, she often hands out framed crocheted artwork with names and initials. She also helps Mike Hamilton with Build-a-Buddy, which visits the hospital regularly to provide stuffed animals for patients.

According to Joy, the greatest gift Zoey has received is her ability to believe in herself. “She can sit tall and straight,” said Joy. “She now goes out of her comfort zone.”

Zoey with Wyoming Shrine Bowl playersZoey paragliding