Ruby’s Christmas Miracle

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Written by Carla Pister, PT Solutions Paulson Pediatrics Clinic Director

“I have been seeing Ruby, a nine year old, twice a week since July 2013. Ruby was born with Spina Bifida and was diagnosed with left Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease around the time I started seeing her. When we first began therapy, she was able to crawl and do some standing with braces but she primarily got around at home and in the community with a manual wheelchair,  rarely self-propelling. Due to her hip issue making her left leg shorter than her right, standing was tough for Ruby.

It has always been my long term goal to get Ruby up and walking with ankle-foot orthosis (AFOs) and an assistive device. This goal however became difficult to progress towards not because of Ruby’s physical limitations, but because she did not want to walk. Just before my 50th birthday in June of 2014 I told Ruby that all I wanted for my birthday was for her to “want to walk”. My birthday came and went and Ruby was clear with me that she just still didn’t want to walk. She insisted she was fine in her wheelchair. Over the next year, Ruby made great progress with her strength. She gained independence with transferring and began to propel herself in a new wheelchair. Walking remained the goal, yet it was still not on her list of things to work on.

For the past year we have been spending at least once a week in our Universal Exercise Unit (UEU) in the spider system. With the support of the belt and cables, Ruby can work in supported standing positions. The system allows for way more than that, Ruby loves to dance and loves to watch herself dance. Lucky for us the UEU is right in front of a floor to ceiling mirror. With the help of technology and the band One Direction, our sessions turned into a dance party. Ruby got stronger and stronger each week and lasted longer and longer during our dance sessions up on her feet.

Two weeks ago Amy, another PT that often treated Ruby, and I were talking about how great Ruby was doing that day in the UEU. Amy suggested trying the gait trainer, so I grabbed one and put Ruby in it. That’s when the miracle happened. Ruby stood up on her feet and started stepping on her own for the first time in years. She got a huge smile on her face and said, “Oh my God! I am totally walking!” On a scale of 10 the goosebumps on my arms rated a 10/10.  Ruby asked me to come over and hug her standing up. She pointed out that she was never able to hug people standing up. Off we went into the hallway, stopping everyone she knew and giving them a hug.

We got her mom from the waiting room, tears were flowing at that point, videos for Facebook were taken, and Ruby asked if she could take the walker home to show her dad. She even said she wanted to take it to school to show her friends.

That day with Ruby goes down as one of the best in my career as a pediatric PT.