Before I meet a new patient for the first time, medical records are often made available to help me get up to speed on the child’s background and condition. As a result, I usually have a picture of the child in my mind before he or she comes through the door. It’s based on what I know from the medical literature and my own experience, of course, but there’s nothing better than when a patient reminds me of the brain and body’s capacity to overcome.
Bobby Nash Planzer is one of those kids. On paper, his medical history would suggest a bleak prognosis. He was born at 26 weeks weighing just over one pound, and spent nine months in the NICU facing the challenges presented by a brain hemorrhage and chronic lung disease. To say the odds were stacked against him is a huge understatement. For the first four years of his life, he couldn’t eat, speak, or breathe on his own. I can only imagine the picture that doctors probably painted for Bobby’s parents in those early days.
Today Bobby is 8-years-old. He’s physically active, very friendly and a big chatterbox. When he walked through my door for the first time, it was clear this kiddo was in the habit of exceeding expectations. I could see his outgoing and charismatic personality right away. And he had a warm smile and special way of taking charge of the room – talking and joking with everyone.
Bobby is in 2nd grade today at a school near Washington, DC, where he is excelling with the help of a one-on-one aide, and an amazing and supportive family. Turns out that he also plays a mean ukulele.
Bobby has faced his fare share of challenges since his rocky start to life, and he’s needed support from many different teams here at Kennedy Krieger. Our Feeding Disorders Program, Center for Development and Learning, and Outpatient Neuropsychology Service have all had a role in helping Bobby overcome the odds – and we’re thrilled that he’s doing just that.
Kids like Bobby teach us all to never underestimate their potential. We can’t write the future of children with special needs in stone. I come to work each day preparing to be surprised and inspired by what kids are capable of in the face of challenges. And they rarely fail to deliver.
Dr. Shawn Kalback is a Psychologist in Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Neuropsychology Department.