Like other parents, Mary and Aaron were excited when they discovered they were expecting a sibling for one year-old Liam. However, when they went in for their 20-week ultrasound, things didn’t go as they expected. They were told that their daughter, Matilda, had Spina Bifida, a condition where part of the spinal cord is damaged. Mary remembers, “It was very scary when we were told Matilda’s diagnosis because we weren’t sure what to expect for our child.” After consulting with medical staff, Mary and Aaron decided to undergo fetal surgery to repair the spinal defect before the baby was born. According to a 2011 study by the New England Journal of Medicine, babies who receive prenatal surgery are less likely to require shunts, walking aids or wheelchairs, and their brains tend to stay healthier.

Three months after the fetal surgery, Matilda was born full-term with hip dysplasia. This means the bones in her hip joint did not fit together correctly. To help correct the dysplasia, doctors recommended a soft brace to help the socket form around the hip bone. Then, at three-months old, Matilda started receiving physical therapy through St. Francis Children’s Center’s Birth to Three program. This important program, funded by the Milwaukee County Disability Services Birth to Three Special Education Early Intervention Program, serves infants and toddlers up to age three who have developmental delays or special needs by providing them with the supports they need. This can include speech, physical and occupational therapies, special education, psychological therapy and family education, training and counseling.

Matilda proved to be a fast learner! She progressed from sitting independently to crawling. Then, after walking with the assistance of a walker, she started standing without this device and even walking by herself. “Through therapy, we anticipated Matilda would walk with assistive devices, but she exceeded our expectations when she started to take independent steps,” explained Michelle Schofield, Matilda’s Physical Therapist from Ascension. “It has been so wonderful to see Matilda’s curiosity grow as she is able to explore her environment. Her family has been there every step of the way as her primary team members and have carried through all of the therapy ideas and suggestions to help Matilda’s overall development.”

Today, Matilda is an active 3-year-old who loves to dance, wrestle with her brother and play on the playground. While we’re sad that she’s moving on from our Birth to Three program, we know Matilda will continue to exceed expectations. Her Birth to Three Service Coordinator Linda Schuster said, “We have had the privilege of working with Matilda for the past three years and have marveled at her growth and development. We anticipate she will continue to have great success in all areas of her development as she enters the next phase of her young life.”“Everyone in the Birth to Three program has been so helpful and supportive in caring for Matilda and making our lives easier by bringing the services Matilda needed to our home,” Mary said. “We are fortunate to have received this care for our daughter.”

Written by Linda Schuster, published in 2018.

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