Inspiring Stories

Have Dreams, Discipline & Fun
Marc Russo

Imagine going through your day and only hearing part of what your friends and teachers say. How would you feel if you missed the punch line to the joke? Or imagine someone calling your name in a crowded cafeteria but not knowing where that sound came from.

Two to three percent of the population doesn’t have to imagine these situations, because they live them. They have auditory processing disorder (APD), a disorder that occurs when the ears and brain don’t fully coordinate. Someone with APD has trouble understanding directions, often cannot hear himself, and may have speech difficulties. He might smile and nod but miss out on the joke, or he might not respond when you call his name.

Activity-based restorative therapies got Penelope back on her feet after a spinal cord injury
Penelope Miller

About a week after Penelope Miller was born, in July 2012, her parents noticed her leg movement was more frog-like than her older brother’s was when he was a baby, and she didn’t have a strong kick. A visit to the doctor determined that everything was fine. Yet her parents, Tim and Heather, remained concerned. The family continued to visit doctors, and Penelope seemed to get stronger.

Until March of 2013. At the beginning of the month, Penelope was in such pain, particularly at night, that she writhed in her crib. Doctors diagnosed extreme constipation. Tim noticed thereafter that his daughter wasn’t standing as well, but thought she was dehydrated. By mid-month, she was completely paralyzed from the waist down. She was eight months old.

Five years ago, Charnira was on life support and expected to remain in a vegetative state. Now 15, she is full of vitality, thanks to a brain injury program that helps non-responsive patients emerge into consciousness.
Charnira Berry

No one could have known that day how 10-year-old Charnira Berry’s life would be dramatically altered—or just how close she would come to struggling for survival. Her family was getting ready to go out, and while her father and siblings bustled around her, Charnira remained on the couch, sleeping. When her family was unable to rouse her, they realized something was seriously wrong. Charnira had suffered a heart attack. 

After a brain tumor blindsided Kokayi and left him without the ability to walk, talk, or even swallow, he fought to get his life back.
Kokayi Thomas with his mother

Fifteen-year-old Kokayi Thomas had always been healthy and athletic, until last November when he started complaining of weakness in his right arm and leg. After a visit to the pediatrician, a battery of tests, and an MRI, Kokayi and his parents were shocked to hear the diagnosis: Kokayi had a brain tumor. Although considered low-grade, the tumor—pilocytic astrocytoma—was located on his brain stem. “In that one moment, with those few words, our world turned upside down,” recalls Kokayi’s mother, Debra Jeter-Thomas.

Despite severe autism and catatonia, Jamie Schneider’s triumphs have been far greater than his disability.
Jamie Schneider

Jamie Schneider has profound autism and cannot speak. The 23-year-old from New York cannot cross the street alone and requires constant supervision. But when he’s running, he is free. Jamie can’t communicate how it feels to hear friends and family cheer him on during a race or to cross the finish line of a marathon.  But you need only see his smile and the pride shining in his face to imagine what he might be thinking.

A military family's quest for their daughter's care
Megan Miceli

With her big bright eyes, auburn curls, and contagious giggle, 6-year-old Megan Miceli is truly one in a million. You could even say she’s one in a billion— Megan has a genetic disorder so rare that only a handful of cases have been reported in the world. Since she was a baby, she has been under the care of neurologists at Kennedy Krieger who, after extensive genomic testing, diagnosed her with gene microdeletion 15q13.3.

Colorado Dreaming
Marshall Garber

A few years ago, I developed a mass on my spinal cord that left me paralyzed. My family sought out the best place to help me, which was Kennedy Krieger. Going into treatment, I didn’t have any intention of forming a family there, but in a way, I did. Multiple people at Kennedy Krieger had an impact on me, but Dr. Becker has been one of the most influential people in my recovery.

The Neurobehavioral Unit at Kennedy Krieger helps turn around a young boy with self-injurious and aggressive behavior.
Luke McNair happy

Chrissy McNair describes her son Luke, 13, as “one of the happiest kids I’ve ever met.” He usually wakes up in a good mood and likes cracking jokes with his two brothers. He loves Top-40 music and animals, and has been riding horses since he was 3 years old. “The best word for him is passionate,” says his mother. “He passionately loves the things he loves and he passionately hates the things he hates.” But when Luke would get upset, that passion began to manifest in disturbing and even dangerous ways.

After multiple doctors could not help relieve her suffering from pain so severe she could no longer walk, Katie Bickford sought help at Kennedy Krieger’s Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program and today, she has her life back.
Katie Bickford

Katie Bickford remembers the pain starting in the 7th grade—it began in her spine and radiated out all over her body. The pain got so bad she couldn’t walk. To make matters worse, she fractured her heel, and then her arm, so it hurt to use crutches.

She used a wheelchair to get around, but in her house where the wheelchair wouldn’t fit, she resorted to crawling, developing thick calluses on her hands and knees. She could no longer function and stopped going to school.

After cancer and chemotherapy left her so fragile doctors said she might never walk again, Perry found her strength with the help of Kennedy Krieger’s Specialized Transition Program.
Perry Zimmerman

At the tender age of 13, Perry Zimmerman has already battled a lifetime’s worth of illnesses. Born with retinoblastoma, a type of eye cancer, Perry developed a related brain tumor at age two that doctors did not expect her to survive. For the Zimmerman family, watching their two-year-old daughter go through chemotherapy was heartwrenching, but when it was over, Perry emerged cancer-free.

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