Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a physical disability affecting posture and movement.
Diplegia refers to the the parts of the body which are affected - Virginia's legs.
Spastic means that muscles are too tight and stiff. Simply, there are too many signals coming into the muscles, directing them to contract strongly, non-stop. This is why Virginia has an atypical walking pattern.
Over time, spasticity causes muscles to continually tighten and shorten. This leads to increasing pain as well as a gradual loss of mobility and independence - at a young age.
Factors leading to CP include: a lack of oxygen to the brain during birth, prematurity, trauma, or infection. Virginia was born 3 months early.
Treatments in Canada for adults are limited to stretching, physiotherapy, muscle relaxant drugs, botox injections to weaken tight muscles and repeated orthopedic surgeries - in an attempt to manage the effects of spasticity on the body. None of these get to the root cause of the spasticity itself - they merely try to treat the consequences of it.
Thankfully however, there is a surgery called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) which is the only procedure that can significantly reduce spasticity - eliminating it permanently. SDR has been performed for over 30 years under the expertise of Dr. TS Park, in St. Louis, Missouri USA. He has successfully operated on over 4,000 children and adults from 72 countries since 1991.
Once adults find it too painful to continue walking independently - and decline to use of a walker or wheelchair - they are no longer eligible for the surgery. This was Virginia's one chance to keep her mobility while she still had it, to permanently relieve her pain, and to also ensure her independence and quality of life for the future.
SDR is only available for children in Canada - not adults. Dr. Park is one of very few surgeons in the world with the expertise required to perform the surgery on adult patients. It was Virginia's best and only option to go to St. Louis for SDR.
Costs associated with SDR - and the required exercise therapy afterward to build strength in her legs - are significant, and not covered by Canadian health insurance.
The Walk with Wish initiative was created to raise much-needed awareness for SDR in Canada, and to help make this dream a reality for Virginia. We were blessed to reach our fundraising goal, and Virginia had SDR surgery in St. Louis with Dr. Park in March 2019!
Follow the blog on this site for her latest updates as she begins to experience the joys of life spasticity-free!