By Joe Kiefer, MPT
Charlotte’s Road to Independence
Charlotte first came to Developmental Steps when she was in high school. She had experienced 2 brain bleeds over a couple of years and her family brought her in for a consult with the hope of avoiding surgery; she was walking on the side of her right foot and had weakness on the whole right side of her body. Despite her hard work in Physical Therapy elsewhere to overcome this, her independence was limited at this point in her life.
Unfortunately, another surgery was unavoidable. After her surgery, she returned to Developmental Steps and had a goal of returning to the previous life she had known.
Fortunately, Charlotte’s was a super supportive family who had arranged for a team of providers to be available to assist with so many of her needs. The goal was for her to go to college and be totally independent, the hard work ahead of Charlotte didn’t deter her. We worked on improving her walking pattern, which was painful to look at with her initially rolling over her right ankle with every step.
The ability to do simple tasks like tying shoes had to be rethought and solved (she can now tie her shoes with just her left hand). Her balance was poor at best and she was shifted away from her right side. This would all change by helping her feel confident that her right leg would support her and her right arm could assist with some of her Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s).
College Life and Solutions:
Charlotte was under the best care her parents could find. Along with coming to Developmental Steps and the support she was receiving at school, Charlotte was going for robotics therapy to help her move her right arm more naturally.
Frequent falls led us to look into an active orthotic; this activates on heel strike and swing phase to lift her toes up to prevent them from dragging and causing her to trip. This worked a bit but proved not to be the solution. We would train her to lift and clear her foot which eliminated the falls.
The challenge is developing ways to allow to do activities she would normally do with 2 hands with only one or with her right arm providing some assist. Examples of this are carrying her lunch to her table when at college (food was placed in Tupperware to carry with her left hand only) or ways to get her books into her bag, zipper it and get it on both shoulders was solved with patience and perseverance.
Whatever obstacles and challenges that were encountered while at school she would bring back with her when coming home and together we would look for a solution. She was determined to be independent and self sufficient in her community. Charlotte was away at college for 5 years, how wonderful it was to see her graduate!
Post-College Life & Independence:
Charlotte now comes back to us to overcome the challenges of living on her own in an apartment someday and improving upon some of the small things that she did not have a chance to work on while in school. We are so proud to watch and assist Charlotte to grow and develop into the incredibly motivated and independent woman she has become.