Need advice for girl with oxygen deprivation related brain damage

Michael Thompson mickey at altger.altos.de
Tue Mar 17 20:17:09 EST 1992


(this is my 3rd try; the other two didn't seem to leave my site)

My girlfriend has a little girl, Jassamin, age 8.  She contracted a rare
form of cancer before she was 2, had an operation for this cancer
approximately a year later, and underwent chemo-therapy.

Something went wrong with the plastic tracheal tube during the operation,
and she was deprived of oxygen for approximately 2.5 minutes.  She has since
fully recovered from the cancer, but the lack of oxygen caused damage to the
right hemisphere of her brain, and she has limited use of (and sensation in)
her left arm and leg, and has brain related vision problems.

Otherwise, she is completely normal.  She is exceptionally bright, and is a
happy and playful little girl.  The doctors said she would never walk, but
she has learned to do so.  She wants very much to be like other children and
to be treated like a normal child.  She seems to be adapting well to her
disability because she experiments with ways to get around it.

She goes to a special school for children with similar problems and they pay
special attention to her.  She undergoes some kind of physical therapy
(mainly play therapy) for 1.5 hours per day.  The doctors say that she
probably will not gain better muscular control over her arm or leg, and the
therapy is designed to teach her to effectively use what she currently has.

I question this position, however.  I think perhaps more can be done with
her.  For example, she has trouble lifting her left arm.  In fact, it is
impossible for her to lift it higher than shoulder level.  If someone tries
to help her lift it, there is muscular resistance, as if the muscles which
should be relaxing are contracting.  If one asks her to completely relax the
arm, it is better, but still not anywhere near sufficient for normal motion.
However, when she sleeps, her arm can be moved without difficulty.  Also, in
her sleep, she sometimes moves her fingers beyond what is apparently
possible when she is awake.

To me, this seems to suggest that her brain can communicate with her muscles
more than what is currently believed, and that much of her motor problems
are coordination related.

She recently has an eye exam and vision test.  Her eyes are completely
normal.  Her peripheral vision isnormal, but there is a section in the
middle of the vision field of both eyes where she cannot see very well.
This makes it difficuly for her to read and recognize complex patterns; she
cannot tell the difference between certain species of animals which are
cimilar in appearance, for example.  However, she does not appear to be
vision impaired; she plays like a normal child; paints, draws, etc..

My questions are:

What kind of physical therapy should she be having?

What exactly could be causing her vision problems?  Damage to the optic
nerve?  Could this ever heal?  Is there anything that could be done to
help her see better?  The eyes themselves are perfectly normal, so I
imagine glasses won't help..

Can anyone give any suggestions for things we could do to help her?

Sorry this is so long..

If you post, please send email as well; our link is unreliable.

Thanks,

mickey at altger.uucp



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