4-Year-Old Takes First Independent Steps After Spine Surgery: What Is Cerebral Palsy?


A 4-year-old girl bravely takes her first steps just seven weeks after her spinal surgery. What is cerebral palsy? 

‘Mighty Miss Maya’

At just 4 years old, Maya Tisdale of Michigan has gone through quite a journey. She was born four months early and had to stay at the ICU for 26 weeks. Just before she turned 2 years old, she was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, which left her unable to stand for just a few seconds and to always use a walker when she had to walk.

However, “Mighty Miss Maya” is quite the fighter, and just this month, she was able to stand independently just seven weeks after doctors performed a spine surgery that would allow her to walk and be more mobile. She will, however, still require about 200 post-surgery physical therapy visits for the first year after her surgery but her insurance will only cover 30, which is why her family has set up a fundraiser on YouCaring to help cover her medical expenses.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a class of disorders that affect an individual’s capability to move and maintain balance. It is the most prevalent kind of motor disability among children, and is caused by damage to a developing brain or by abnormal brain development that can occur before, during, and even after birth.

While all people with cerebral palsy have problems with posture and movement, the symptoms actually vary from one person to another. For instance, a person with mild cerebral palsy may walk awkwardly but does not require special care or help, whereas a person with severe cerebral palsy may require lifelong care or may need special equipment to be able to walk. Further, even if the disorder does not tend to worsen over time, its symptoms can change over time.

Types Of Cerebral Palsy

There are four main types of cerebral palsy, the most common of which is spastic cerebral palsy which affects about 80 percent of all patients with the disorder. People with spastic cerebral palsy have stiff muscles that can result in awkward movement. This can occur mostly in the legs (spastic diplegia), on one side of the body (spastic hemiplegia), or on all limbs, the face, and the trunk (spastic quadriplegia). The latter is the most severe form of spastic cerebral palsy, and people with this type often cannot walk, and also have developmental disabilities or vision, speech, or hearing problems.

There is also dyskinetic cerebral palsy which is characterized by difficulties with controlling movements of the arms, legs, hands, feet, and sometimes even the tongue and face. The uncontrollable movements can go from slow and writhing to quick and jerky, making it difficult for the patient to stay still and walk. Problems with the face and tongue may also lead to difficulties in talking, sucking, and swallowing.

Patients with the third type, ataxic cerebral palsy, often have difficulties with rapid movements or movements that require a lot of control, such as writing. They also have problems with balance and movement, especially when walking.

The final type is the mixed cerebral palsy, which is diagnosed in people who have more than two types of cerebral palsy.

In Maya Tisdale’s case, her spastic displegia cerebral palsy caused the muscles in her legs, hips, and feet to become tight and spastic.

Early Diagnosis Is The Key

So far, there is no cure for cerebral palsy, but early diagnosis is key in helping the child, as well as the entire family, to cope with the disorder. The earliest that a child can be diagnosed, the earliest that a medical team, with the help of the entire family, can help the child reach his or her full potential through therapy and other intervention methods.

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