My daughter, Bre, is bright and funny and social and sharp and very creative. She also displays more perseverance than any adult I know, and she’s not quite ten years old. Bre doesn’t know the meaning of the word “can’t.”
She was diagnosed with congenital hydrocephalus at 15 months old. It’s a buildup of fluid in the brain. In Bre’s case, it caused CP (cerebral palsy). Her main disability is a gross motor delay. Fine motor skills are great, no cognitive delays – but her legs don’t work as well as other kids’, and she has balance issues that have kept her off her feet. At diagnosis, she dragged her legs army-crawl style and would still crawl through areas of the house as she got older.
We’ve tried just about everything to help her build lower body strength – gait trainers, reverse walkers, you name it. She’s gotten better with crutches over the last few years, but she always feels unbalanced, always afraid of falling. She didn’t have the strength or endurance for long distances. That’s why Bre has had to use a wheelchair most of the time since she was five.
Earlier this year, I got her a LifeGlider. That’s when everything changed.
Thanks to Her LifeGlider, My Daughter is Running!
I’ve learned a lot of patience over the years. Bre has tended to make some progress – then, there would be long plateaus. But over the past eight months with the LifeGlider, we have seen one steady improvement after another.
For example, Bre loves to cook. She would die to meet Guy Fieri, wants to be the first kid with a disability on Chopped Junior, plans to host her own cooking show when she grows up – this kid loves cooking! Before, she had to hold onto her walker to get around the kitchen. It was almost impossible for her to deal with opening the stove, putting things in the oven, reaching for things in the cabinets. Now, she can do it all in her LifeGlider, because her hands are free. And she’s been cooking up a storm! I swear that child can cook a steak better than I can.
She also loves basketball. We met with her physical therapist in the school gym so she could try out her LifeGlider, and the kid took off. She actually began to run. Her therapist yelled at her to slow down. She shouted back, “No! I’ve never run in my whole life! This is AMAZING!” She will return to Special Olympics basketball and softball after the pandemic with a whole new ability, thanks to her LifeGlider.
Her strength and endurance have progressed faster than ever before. About three months in, Bre decided she was going to walk a mile for the first time in her life. So, we went out to the school track with her LifeGlider. I wasn’t sure she would have the endurance to go that far, but she did it. Her grandmother posted this picture of her afterward on the Some Good News Facebook page. It got over 20,000 likes! Bre is such an inspiration. She just smashes goal after goal.
Bre Is Growing More Independent Every Day
After about six months of using the LifeGlider daily, Bre started taking more unaided steps than ever before. Her record as of last year was 13 steps. This summer, I was working on replacing a doorknob. Bre was curious about what I was doing, and without even thinking, she unbuckled, stepped out of the LifeGlider, and started walking toward me. The next thing we knew, she was walking all through the house. I was in tears. We went outside and started counting how far she could get on the driveway. 44 steps!
I know it’s because the LifeGlider enables her to do all sorts of activities that are making her stronger every day. It is also giving her more confidence in her balance and strength. The wide wheelbase gives her so much stability that she can play out in the yard, rake the leaves, do chores around the house (though she doesn’t always love that part). It’s strengthening her muscles and building lower-body muscle memory. She’s actually weight-bearing with her legs as she does these activities instead of using her hands to hold herself up.
Bre goes to a K-12 school. Every year, seniors have a day when they walk through the school while all the students line the hallways and high-five them. Bre told me once that when it was her turn, she was going to walk through that school without anything helping her. For the first time, I’ve realized that is entirely possible.
It’s Not Just Life-Changing for Bre
This has been life-changing for both of us. Practically speaking, the LifeGlider is a whole lot lighter for me to pick up than a wheelchair and easier to fold up and put in a car than a normal reverse walker. I don’t have to steer her around obstacles or worry that she’s going to fall over.
But also, as a parent, my job is to help her be as independent as possible, mobility impairment or not. This has made it so much easier for me to teach her things like raking the leaves, vacuuming the floor, or doing the dishes. Shortly after getting the LifeGlider, I watched her get up from the dinner table, buckle in, pick up her plate, and take it to the sink. That probably wouldn’t make most parents cry. But I did.
You know what I can do that I’ve never been able to before? Hug my daughter standing up. That might sound like a small thing, but it isn’t. It’s everything.