Wednesday, January 26, 2011

THIS is cool.

We've gained some new followers in the past month or so and I feel it might be helpful to give a little background to explain what's so cool about this post.

The New and Improved Hypes Family
(minus big brother, Ryan)
Our daughter, Emily (or "Sparkles" as she likes to refer to herself occasionally), was born 10 weeks premature in Uralsk, Kazakhstan.   I didn't get to formally introduce myself to her as "Mom" until she was 8 months old and we traveled to Kazakhstan to adopt her.  

We lived in Kaz for 4 weeks while we bonded with her and went through the official adoption process.  In February of 2007, Emily came home with us to Ohio.

In the years since, Emily has grown to be your ordinary 4-year old girl that happens to have a mild case of Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy.  As a result, she has high/tight muscle tone in her calves and ankles and also in her hips and waist. She goes to physical therapy twice a week to help with this and we do stretching exercises on a regular basis now.  Last year, Em received botox injections in both calves to help weaken the muscles so her other muscles become more developed.  Along with those, she also wore AFOs on both legs during the day and a DAFO on her left leg at night.  (These are leg braces made of molded plastic that basically fit like a boot.) 

Above is a sample of the braces she wore during the day.

Like any kid, Em loved to play outside on the swings and slides at an early age.  (Still does!)  Now, with that being said, there are a couple of differences between Em playing on a swingset and most other kids playing on a swingset.  Em is a tiptoe walker when she's not wearing her braces.  Standing on your tiptoes all the time make it very easy to trip and/or get knocked down.  With her tight trunk muscles, it was difficult for her to sit at anything close to a 90° angle... which also made it very difficult for her to sit safely in a normal swing.  :-(   

We kept her in baby swings for as long as we could possibly cram those long legs of hers down through the leg holes.  We also hovered around her when she climbed the ladders to the slides because it didn't take much for her to get distracted and lose her balance and fall backwards.

Finally, when she was about 3 1/2, the day came when we felt she was gaining a little more independence and would be ready to start trying to tackle a small playset on her own... 

Can you feel the excitement?

It's been a little over a year since that video and she's doing great!  We don't have to hover any more unless she's going up a really tall slide or attempting to traverse some sort of obstacle course that some of the doohickeys have on them.  Em is no longer getting botox injections this year, she doesn't have to wear AFO braces during the day but still wears DAFO braces on both legs at night.  She loves running and playing and sliding AND SWINGING.

And now, something related but, slightly off topic:
Why is that swinging part so important?  That part is so important because of the next video I want to share with you.  Do you remember the freedom you felt as a kid flying through the air on a swing?  Do you remember how fast and how high you could go?  Do you remember your hair blowing back and forth in the breeze and your stomach leaping a bit when you'd reach the really high part?  Yeah?  Ok, now, imagine you're confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy or for any other number of reasons.  What are the changes that you're ever going to get to sit in a swing and experience that thrill? 

Look what I ran across today.  Wouldn't it be awesome if every town in America had one of these? 

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