Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Getting Back into the Game

Most soccer players, especially goalies, are known for their fearlessness. Unfortunately their aggressive play and love for the game can translate into time spent off the field, recovering from a concussion.

I first got to know Chris–a charming, hard-hitting soccer goalie who also loves the guitar–after he was sidelined by a concussion. He was hit in the head when, while blocking the goal, he dove to the ground, and the ball struck him in the face–hard–as he made the save. Because of the severity of the blows and his neurological signs, he was airlifted off the soccer field and flown to the Johns Hopkins Hospital, as his stunned teammates, spectators and parents watched.

A short time later, Chris came to see us in Kennedy Krieger’s Sports Neurorehabilitation Concussion Clinic. He came cheerfully, even though he was still experiencing symptoms of his concussion. Still, he wasn’t his usual ball of energy, and he was bothered by frequent headaches. As you can imagine, he was eager to return to the game—but in a safe way–and his parents needed help figuring out when Chris could safely return to the sport he loves.

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Defining Determination

I wouldn’t be surprised to look up the definition of “determination” in a dictionary, only to find a photo of a smiling John “Alex” Curtis.

On the day he was admitted to our inpatient rehabilitation unit, his mother told me, “You know, Alex is a very special child.” Of course, all of us parents think the same about our kids. But throughout his time with us, Alex proved his mother right.

Alex came to Kennedy Krieger Institute for intensive inpatient rehabilitation after he had an operation elsewhere to fix a chest wall abnormality called Pectus Excavatum. If severe and untreated, the condition can affect the ability to breathe. Unfortunately, a complication occurred during the procedure and Alex woke from surgery unable to walk.

I remember within those first few days, Alex told me in a matter-of-fact way that he was going to walk again. I hope for a full recovery for all of my patients, but experience has told me that nothing is guaranteed. Alex, however, didn’t need my hope or guarantee: He knew he would walk again. There was simply never any doubt in his mind. Continue reading

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A big heart goes a long way

During the two years that I have worked at Café James—a classroom at Kennedy Krieger High School that teaches students job skills in the hospitality industry—I’ve been so privileged to work with Jerome. His shining personality is always hard to miss, even in previous years, just in passing, when he would walk down the hallway past my homeroom. At first, I didn’t know Jerome at all, but I instantly liked him a lot.

As time went on, I watched him interacting with his peers in the halls and in the cafeteria, and I began to realize what made Jerome so special: He is one of the kindest, most truthful, and heartfelt people there is. Everyone likes him and he is friendly and respectful to everyone he meets.

After he was diagnosed with a learning disability, Jerome was enrolled into Kennedy Krieger School’s Fairmount Campus. Now about to graduate from Kennedy Krieger High School, he has been working hard ever since.
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They Know They Can

In April, the Bennett Blazers, Kennedy Krieger’s wheelchair basketball team, and I travelled all the way to Denver, Colorado for four days to compete in the 2011 National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s (NWBA) National Championships. We felt prepared—we’d been a strong team all year with a solid defense that anticipated each other’s moves. We were also the only team that had brought just six players to the tournament, which left us with only one substitute—a fact other teams seemed to be more concerned about than my players. They were ready to play the whole game no matter what, and they did.

I had complete faith in the team and their abilities, but I couldn’t have predicted their dedication, composure and confidence throughout some of the hardest minutes of basketball they had ever played. It was a nail-biter all the way to the end. Here’s a play-by-play:

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“Houston, we have a problem…”

One of my favorite movies is “Apollo 13”, a tale of astronauts who experience a near-fatal accident en route to the moon. With the help of mission control in Houston, they ultimately survive a harrowing attempt to return to earth alive. For them, failure was not an option.

For most of 2009, Daniel was a typical 13-year-old boy who enjoyed hanging out with his twin brother and loved playing with LEGOs. But that Fall, he caught H1N1 Influenza and never fully recovered. There was no explanation for why the influenza virus had hit Daniel so hard. He grew very weak, and, unable to eat, he needed a gastrostomy tube to provide the nutrition and calories his body demanded. Severe pain kept him out of school, out of his life, for over a year. His parents desperately wanted help for their bedridden son, who spent most of his time curled up in a fetal position. They saw doctor after doctor in New York, but nothing seemed to help.

Daniel’s last hope was Kennedy Krieger Institute. And so, in a final attempt to relieve the chronic pain that was ruining his life, he and his family came to Baltimore.

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A Life Changed

Though I’ve only known Donnell Jones for a few months now, he’s the kind of person you need only know for a few minutes before his charisma draws you in.

Donnell was injured in 1996, during a game of pick-up football. In one instant, a hard hit and a broken neck left him paralyzed and unable to stand or walk. He has limited use of his arms and hands, but he can sit up on his own, and we have been working hard in intensive therapy sessions to help him regain more function.

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Against the Odds

In my experience, Erica Carter is the rarest breed of foster parent.
Many of us in the Therapeutic Foster Care program were amazed when we encountered this woman. As a single mother in her 30s with a grown son, she defied foster care statistics when she welcomed a child with special needs into her home and then opened her door to the boy’s two brothers as well. But when she chose to adopt all three of the boys—each with developmental disabilities—she outdid herself.
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Getting Her Voice…Again

Many of the children admitted to the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Kennedy Krieger have experienced a trauma or illness that resulted in needing a procedure called a tracheostomy. The procedure involves placing a tube in a patient’s neck to help him breathe, but the downside is that it robs them of the ability to speak. Seeing a child with a “trach” tube in place can be heartbreaking for the casual observer. Seeing your own child with it is devastating. Continue reading

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Inspiring Potential

Welcome to Kennedy Krieger’s first venture into the blogosphere. Here at the Institute, the work we do is rooted in the belief that all children, regardless of a disability, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Continue reading

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