Schreiber Pediatric Center - The wonders of water: Kambria's comeback

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September 16, 2016

The wonders of water: Kambria's comeback

Posted by Dan  Permalink 

By Jessica Krueger

You wouldn't know it to look at Kambria Appleby's bright blue eyes and chunky cheeks. Or to see her splash in our therapy pool and reach for pool toys. But she almost died four months ago.

Schreiber Occupational Thearpist Jessica Krueger works with Kambria Appleby in Schreiber's aquatic pool.

Kambria was at Schreiber recently for aquatic therapy. Melissa Graham, her nanny, recounted what happened.

Kami was a healthy little 8-month-old when she suddenly became ill on a Friday in May. She woke up one morning screaming in pain. Within 48 hours, Kami had lost the ability to move her arms and legs. By the following Wednesday, she was in the hospital for what would be six-week stay.

The diagnosis was transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across both sides of one level, or segment, of the spinal cord. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, these attacks of inflammation can damage or destroy myelin, the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibers.

Kami's attack was focused in her neck, so she became paralyzed from the neck down. Swelling around her spine started to interfere with her breathing, and she was literally hours away from dying. Doctors saved her life by inserting a breathing tube.

She has been receiving physical and occupational therapy at Schreiber since the beginning of July to help her regain the function lost due to the illness.

The long-term effect of transverse myelitis varies from person to person, according to the NINDS. About a third experience no recovery at all; another third are left with significant physical deficits. The remaining third experience a good or full recovery.

Kami, fortunately, appears to be in this last group. In her time at Schreiber, she has begun crawling again, mainly with her arms (suggesting her legs might be slower to regain full function). She is able to sustain tummy time for about 30 minutes.

Her work in the pool is a good example of how aquatic therapy can be used as part of a broader therapy plan to help our kids improve their everyday functioning.

The water provides assistance for strengthening, coordination, communication, and sensory input. The water provides natural resistance against the muscles which helps the core, arms and legs build strength.

Jessica Krueger, left, and Melissa Graham have Kami splash in the pool to help her arms get stronger.

In Kami's case, the aquatic therapy is intended to help her regain the function she lost as a result of the illness: strengthening her core so she is able to sit up again; strengthening her arms and legs so she can crawl again; improving her fine motor skills so she will be able to feed herself again.

Other children might realize different benefits from aquatic therapy. Games and swimming strokes require a lot of coordination; kids have to learn to use their arms and legs simultaneously either together or opposite. Working on these skills in the pool assists your child with building fundamental skills for coordination, as well as motor planning.

The pool also can assist with improving eye contact and vocalizations for communicating with others due to the sensory aspects of the pool. The water provides deep pressure to the entire body all at one time, which can aid in decreasing tactile hypersensitivity.

The water also helps improve body awareness, improving the child's sense of where their body is in space. Vestibular input is also provided through changing the position of the head in multiple directions while swimming or completing activities in the pool. All of these senses aid in increasing a child's motor planning skills.

Here at Schreiber, the OTs and PTs use the pool as a fun way to make huge strides in your child's development to improve their participation in their daily lives!

Jessica Krueger is an occupational therapist at Schreiber Pediatric in Lancaster.

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