Inspiring Stories

An unexpected collaboration between neurology and bioengineering led to an innovative, low-cost medical device that may help prevent cerebral palsy in developing countries.

As far back as 1000 BC, ancient civilizations used a primitive, but ingenious, cooling system using nothing more than clay pots, water, and the natural cooling power of evaporation to keep food cool. Could this same low-tech cooling system be used to prevent brain damage and cerebral palsy in developing countries?

For Pfeiffer’s family, every little milestone is a miracle, thanks to the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury.
Pfeiffer Whiteley

At 4 years old, Victoria “Pfeiffer” Whiteley is funny, precocious, very charming, and wise beyond her years. She loves dresses with flowers, Barbies, and all things girly. She is also partially paralyzed, a result of transverse myelitis.

When Pfeiffer Whiteley was 8 months old, she developed a high fever and seemed to “flop over.” Both the pediatrician and the doctor at the hospital said the same thing—it was just a virus that would resolve on its own.

For a 14-year-old boy who lost his arms in a landmine explosion in Yemen, new prosthetic arms and rehabilitative therapy from Kennedy Krieger’s Limb Differences Clinic open up a world of possibilities for his future.
Mohammed Karim

Four years ago, Abdul Karim heard an explosion just outside his house in Yemen. When he opened his door, his ten-year-old son, Mohammed, was standing in the doorway, covered in blood. Mohammed had spent that morning playing outside near his village. As the sun cast its light over the nearby mosque, Mohammed noticed a shiny object on the ground. 

“You can do whatever you want as long as you put your mind to it.”

In November 2009 I felt a sudden, severe pain in my legs. I was diagnosed with a disease called transverse myelitis, which attacked my spinal cord and paralyzed me from the waist down. I had some feeling in my legs, like pins and needles, but I had no movement whatsoever. I started coming to Kennedy Krieger for intensive therapy four to five hours a day. Thanks to my amazing therapists and because I was religious about continuing therapy at home, I made a lot of progress.

New interdisciplinary clinic brings world-class research, care, and support for families of patients with complex neurodevelopmental disorder.
Mason Ditch playing

When Chris and Crystal Ditch delivered their baby boy, Mason, they burst into tears of joy. It had taken them four years to get pregnant, and they finally held the baby they had awaited for so long. But two hours before Crystal and Mason were scheduled to be discharged, doctors told them that Mason had tumors in his tiny heart. A few days later, doctors found tumors in his brain, and diagnosed him with tuberous sclerosis, a rare complex genetic disorder occurring in one out of 6,000 births that causes non-cancerous tumors to grow in multiple organs, including the brain, eyes, heart, kidneys, skin, and lungs.

The unlikely role of video games in neurorehabilitation.
Marci with physical therapist

Tell a kid to do three repetitions of 15 pushups or 25 leg lifts or any of the other myriad exercises that physical therapists assign during a regular session, and the automatic response might be a roll of the eyes and a groan before relenting—only to tucker out and lose focus or motivation before it’s over. But hand this same kid a Nintendo Wii video game controller and tell him to play a game of basketball or a few innings of baseball, or—in the case of 6-year-old patient Maci Janiski—a round of Just Dance, and suddenly 200 repetitions are no problem.

Ostracized by her own people because of her son's developmental disabilities, a mother's journey to save her son leads her from Africa to Kennedy Krieger and its affiliate PACT.
Fabian Ndungu Githinji and family

In rural Africa, where 3-year-old Fabian Ndungu Githinji was born, his mother Maureen could feel the eyes of her neighbors on her when she held Fabian, and hear their whispers behind her back. It was obvious that Fabian was different, with his abnormally large head and delayed development. In her culture, many still believed that children with developmental disabilities were a bad omen or a curse.

After surviving a horrific car crash, Matthew Slattery defied expectations in his recovery from traumatic brain injury.
Image Matt and Teressa in occupational therapy

In an instant, the Slattery family was shattered.

Susan Slattery and her two sons, Matthew and Peter, were on their way home from visiting family in Ohio on a sunny August day in 2010 when tragedy struck. A truck driver fell asleep at the wheel, barreling into Susan Slattery’s car and pushing it under a tractor trailer, killing her and critically injuring 12-year-old Matthew and 16-year-old Peter.

For patients and families, genetic counselors help navigate the uncharted path through treatment of rare genetic disorders.
Megan Miceli

From the beginning, Megan Miceli’s parents knew something wasn't right.

Megan wasn't Amie Miceli's first child. She knew there were certain milestones every newborn should reach and that every parent looks forward to. But Megan was floppy -- literally floppy, Amie says.

The Concussion Clinic helps young athletes figure out a game plan for recovery after a sports-related concussion.
Aidan Fielding

In October 2008, Ryne Dougherty, a 16-year-old New Jersey teenager and junior linebacker for his high school football team, was in the middle of a game when he suffered a blow to his head -- just three and a half weeks after another on-field tackle left him with a concussion. This time, he was removed from the game and sent to the hospital, where they found bleeding in his brain. He died two days later.

Afterwards, an investigation revealed that shortly after the first concussion -- and not long before he was allowed to return to the field -- Dougherty had failed a test meant to gauge whether he was fit to play. 

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