"Adventures, I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull...But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have just landed in them, usually...I expect they had a lot of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten."

-Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Get the facts!

Cerebral palsy affects ¾ of a million Americans. Understanding CP can help with prevention and help ward off stigma's that often accompany the diagnosis.

Cerebral Palsy is not a disease and its not communicable. Cerebral palsy is caused when brain damage occurs in utero, during birth, or in infancy/early childhood. Brain damage can be caused by a stroke, lack of oxygen, or injury during birth. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, it is not progressive as brain damage itself doesn't get worse. However as a person affected by CP ages, muscle stiffness/spasticity can get worse.

Sometimes CP can be prevented. By getting proper medical care while pregnant you significantly lower the risks of CP. Other things that lower the risk are not smoking while pregnant, take care of your long term illnesses like diabetes and thyroid, be vaccinated for Rubella/German Measles (at least 4wks before becoming pregnant), and simple measures like staying healthy, eating right, seeing a doctor if you are spotting, bleeding, leaking fluids, or spiking a very high fever while pregnant. Be aware of infections like UTI's and vaginal infections, and avoid exposure to x-rays. Also all pregnant women considering pregnancy should take folic acid. If a woman has folic acid in her body at the time of pregnancy and during pregnancy, it will help prevent NTD (neural tube defects) like cerebral palsy.

But sometimes it can't be prevented. Babies can have a stroke in utero which can cause brain damage and cerebral palsy. Newborns, infants, and small children also can have a stroke which leads to a CP diagnosis. But if people are aware of what cerebral palsy truly is, getting diagnosed and treated early is the best. It is a lifelong diagnosis, but if its treated properly and continually, children can grow and thrive.

We do not yet know what happened to cause Alina's cerebral palsy. We do know she was born very early and that she was quite small at birth. She was said to have hydrocephalus at birth but doesn't have it now.... which is a big question to us because hydrocephalus doesn't just go away. Soon we will schedule an MRI so that we know where the brain damage is. Not only will an MRI give us a little more history as to why she has CP and where the damage is, but it will help us as she learns and grows, to help pinpoint where she may have difficulty learning or with memory.

There is so much to learn, and as we wander down this winding path the most important thing we learn is to see the joy in everyday things. Like watching Alina learn to sit, stand, and walk. Seeing the joy in her face when she does something so simple that we take for granted like getting a baby doll dressed by herself, or being able to put her own dishes in the sink after dinner. She has joy in almost everything she does. :)

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