From the Editor: Pediatric Innovations Bring Hope, Healing to Families

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By Tina Eichner

I often wonder how different life might have been for my family. In 1968 my parents and my older brother awaited the April birth of their second child.

Tragically, a 2½-lb. boy was born in late February, seven weeks too soon. His lungs were not ready and due to oxygen deprivation at birth, he suffered severe brain damage. Dominic lived only two days in an incubator.

Three healthy children followed in later years. I was next, then my sister and later another brother.

The whole family went each year to Dominic's grave. From the time I could stand, I remember my older brother--a young child himself--helping my Dad plant flowers at a small headstone engraved with an angel. I could particularly sense the loss felt by my older brother, a feeling that I then did not quite understand. A feeling of "what might have been." Today his own son is named Dominic.

As a child, I knew to feel sad for the brother I would never know, but also in those moments I had my first assurances that there was another place and another being taking care of things, and that it was good.

My parents were told that had Dominic lived, he would have been a child with special needs. In the late 1960s, family support systems and educational programs for special-needs children were few. Modern medicine has not yet been able to prevent some children from entering this world with special needs, but fortunately society has caught up.

My family did not move to Broomfield, Colorado, from Denver until the early 1970s. Had Dominic lived, maybe we would have moved sooner. At the time there was a small school in the city started by a group of families with children with special needs, a unique early education center in the entire state, one that integrated typical children with special-needs children in the same classrooms, called Bal Swan Children's Center.

My husband and I have been blessed with two wonderful, beautiful daughters. They are both typical children. I am thankful each day for their health. Both of my girls attended Bal Swan as presechoolers, and I became a volunteer there because (selfishly) I liked the way our involvement enriched our lives. I like to think that part of the reason I felt drawn to the program is because of my baby brother.

It is not lost on me that the school would have been an invaluable resource for our family. I think about it often, even as I continue to volunteer, now that my children have moved on to elementary school.

Dominic ended up in another place, that, at the time, might have been better for him.

Thankfully, today there are many similar educational and support programs and countless medical solutions to improve the lives of those children who enter the world with special circumstances.

Complex solutions for complicated problems. Children present unique treatment challenges and yield exceptional rewards. Thank goodness for today's pediatric remedies. We hope you enjoy our pediatric coverage this month.






Editor's Note: Orthopaedically challenged children present special treatment situations due to size and growth issues among other factors. The physicians, nurses, orthotists, prosthetists, therapists, and other rehabilitative professionals who specialize in treating children with limb deficiencies are meeting this month in Sacramento, California, for the Association of Children's Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics (ACPOC) Annual Meeting. In this special section of The O&P EDGE focusing on O&P work in pediatrics, Sherry Metzger writes about how a multidisciplinary approach to spina bifida can improve the patient's quality of life; Judith Philipps Otto explores how expandable internal prostheses are being used as an alternative to amputation for children suffering from osteosarcoma; and Miki Fairley looks into a study examining the effectiveness of cranial remolding helmets in treating positional plagiocephaly.