I have very happy memories of Christmas, especially of Santa Claus. Some children were scared of the thought that he always watched you being naughty or nice. I, on the other hand, found comfort that someone always watched me through my joys and struggles. There was one big wish he never granted, but I know he certainly would have if he could. I wanted to be able to walk and be free of cerebral palsy. Recently, one little girl actually did walk for the first time when she visited Santa Claus!!
Esme Hodge is only 3, and like most children, excited to see Santa for the first time. Esme and her family live in Gloucester, England, and went to see Santa. Hodge took her very first steps to Santa’s sleigh all by herself despite having cerebral palsy. She left behind the support from her parents and her walker to go tell Santa Claus that she requested a toy horse for Christmas. As you can imagine, her parents were over-the-top thrilled.
Esme had been diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy last year when her parents observed weakness in her left side. In September, she underwent surgery after her parents raised the money through crowdfunding. The objective of the surgery was to help Esme with her weakness and eventually walk within time. Well, little Esme had a lot faster timetable to walk. No one expected Esme, who usually relies on her wheelchair, walker, and leg braces, to walk this fast.
Spastic diplegia is a form of cerebral palsy that usually is apparent during infancy or early childhood. Spastic diplegia affects the coordination and muscle tone in the individual, often leaving muscles very spastic or tight in the legs. Interestingly enough, arms are only lightly affected (if affected at all). The other signs of spastic diplegia are scissor-like walking, walking on toes and delayed developmental milestones. The cause is usually the same as any form of cerebral palsy — lack of oxygen before, after, or during birth, premature babies, or differing blood types between baby and mother. An exact cure has yet to be found, but various therapies, medications, and surgeries can definitely improve the symptoms.
Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) is the most common surgery for children who have spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. Basically, the procedure cuts the abnormal messages from the brain to the muscles in hopes of making brain-to-muscle communication much smoother. SDR might be able to help a person walk, do basic personal care independently, improve flexibility, use energy efficiently, better manage pain, and use oxygen better. Currently, even some adults who have spastic diplegia also are receiving SDR with amazing results.
I can only imagine how Santa felt when reading my letter to him. But I feel so happy for Hodge and her parents that a little Christmas miracle took place. Esme continues to have therapy to further strengthen her new walking skills. Their goal is now for her to walk into her classroom come September.
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