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news News Wednesday, October 16, 2019 Monday, October 14, 2019 6:08 PM - Monday, October 14, 2019 6:08 PM

Physical therapy, a journey of steps

Physical therapy, a journey of steps

By Lexi Rohner

“Where there’s cake, there’s hope. And there’s always cake.” – Dean Koontz

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. But what happens when taking that step is the journey?

In the 11 years my son Cole has been alive, there has not been a week of his life that did not include therapy or medical visits. It is a life we are used to, he is used to. It’s a life I cannot imagine being without. I cannot imagine life without the therapists who taught my son how to use his body and taught us how to help him. With every experience and visit, we, as a family, gained perspective.

When we moved to Utah a few years ago, we had not previously been connected with Shriners Hospitals for Children. What we discovered was a comprehensive approach to managing and healing what Cole required, some treatments we did not even know we needed. At Shriners Hospitals for Children, Cole has had an integrative team approach to his orthopaedic medical care. From the doctors to the therapists, all parts communicate with the others. While you might think of physical and occupational therapy as having a very standard and/or obvious path, it rarely ever is. Rather than a "one size fits all" philosophy, Shriners Hospital is an "all sizes fit here."

Cole has made great progress during his visits to the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital. He has had physical therapy, occupational therapy, leg braces, X-rays and other clinical treatments. Cole’s life journey has been one of frustration, challenges and managing schedules to ensure we could keep up with all the appointments. But more than those challenges, it has been a journey of hope.

Born a premature triplet at 28 weeks, Cole had a major stroke, pulmonary hemorrhaging and a laundry list of medical complications at birth that kept him in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for three months. In his first five years, he endured 13 brain surgeries. As difficult as that time was and as happy as we were when he and his siblings finally arrived home, that was truly just the beginning of all the hard work that was to come.

Unable to walk without assistance or get up from sitting to standing until kindergarten, we held hope that Cole would eventually walk, but had no idea when or if it would happen. With therapy, there is never certainty, but there is hope. Without therapy, there is no guarantee at all. Cole has cerebral palsy (CP), a non-progressive condition. Despite the non-progressive nature of CP, without therapy it would have been a near surety that Cole would have no mobility and limited overall physical ability. Therapy services have helped him with talking, eating and dressing. Not only can he now perform many of those basic movements and life necessities, but with assistance and sometimes independently, he is active in adaptive baseball, competes in figure skating and participates in a school jump rope club.

Because of the intense and lifelong therapy Cole has had, how he presents in person is vastly different from how fragile he appears on paper. One might think Cole is unable to live the active life he lives. Shriners Hospitals for Children has played a huge part in Cole making great strides. He continues to push the limits and delights us all with his infectious personality and charm.

A facet of his involvement with Shriners Hospitals for Children is participating as a patient ambassador. This opportunity has been socially enriching for Cole as he has represented Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City and shared his experiences with groups of hospital supporters. Meeting other involved youth and interacting with them and the public has been invaluable.

None of this would have been possible without therapy. And hope. With our deepest gratitude, thank you Shriners Hospitals for Children!

Cole wearing rollerbladesCole playing during physical therapy