Jeans with holes ... and playing ball
By Bernice Dodd, Volunteer
This is Ronnie, he is 12 years old.
He lives in the city of Antananarivo - Madagascar, with his Mum and little brother.
Ronnie has no intellectual disabilities, his are of the physical kind. He was born with Spastic, Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. This means that during pregnancy, delivery or the first 2 years of his life, the movement part of his brain was damaged and all four of his limbs were affected. His nerves get the wrong message from his brain and cause tightening of the muscles in these limbs. This is called hypertonicity.
Babies often wake themselves up during the first few months of development when their arms fly up in the air. This is an involuntary reflex that usually stops around 7 months as the baby gains control over their muscles. Children with Cerebral Palsy continue to experience them, due to damage to this part of the brain which explains the erratic movement of their limbs. The continuous tightening of muscles and lack of therapy, eventually causes shortening, stiffness and permanent deformities can occur. In Ronnies’ case, there is a high risk of hip dislocation.
If children begin to receive therapy within the first 2 years of their lives, so many complications can be prevented and the child's physical functionality can be greatly improved.
When the GNTP team first met Ronnie in 2015 at the age of 10, his hips were bent to the point that his therapist could slide an arm underneath his abdomen if he was lying on his tummy. Ronnies’ knees were bent and his feet were severely turned inward.
His only way of getting around, was scooting around on his bottom. Moving around on the ground this way, meant his clothes were permanently torn. It was difficult for him to maintain hygiene and left him open to injury and sores or infections developing on sensitive areas. Going through dozens of pairs of pants was also great expense to his low income earning family.
Ronnie’s mother began to notice such improvement after his therapy sessions, that she committed to starting regular therapy with GNTP in 2016. Since then he has made incredible progress.
Ronnie is now able to eat independently, using a special bent spoon so that there is not as much strain on his wrist. He is able to dress himself. His hips have straightened and his legs only have about 15 degrees to go until they are straight too. Ronnie is now strong enough to hold himself up to go to the toilet and use a walking frame. The best part of that is that Ronnie can play soccer with his brother when he gets home from school (his favorite pastime).
The GNTP team has also designed and manufactured devices locally to help Ronnie integrate into mainstream schooling. He is eager to learn and do the things his little brother does.
Disability has a huge impact on a family’s life. Bringing the option of therapy to these children and their families is hope for a better future. Parents or guardians are assisted with devices, advice and exercises that help their children reach their full potential and become as functional as possible within their community. Once they are functional parents can begin to work again and break the cycle of poverty.
Growing the Nations Therapy Programs, work together with local physicians and organizations for the disabled, to bring these services to the children and begin to bring about change. The lives of this family are being changed!