Need advice for girl with oxygen deprivation related brain damage

Allen Smith allens at yang.earlham.edu
Sat Apr 18 14:45:22 EST 1992

In article <1992Mar18.011709.15378 at altger.altos.de>, mickey at altger.altos.de (Mic
   hael Thompson) writes:
> (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.

        I'm a distinct nonprofessional in this, and all my thoughts should
definitely be checked out with someone who knows such things better. But I
recall some research with biofeedback on this subject- picking up slight
muscular responses, too weak for the person to feel, and letting them know
that they've managed something, leading to better control.
> 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..

        I can see contact lenses as possibly helping, with the proper
design. If the foeva's impulses aren't being sent, then a lens could be
designed to send that portion of the image which would be sent to the
foeva to a circle around it. This would be confusing at first, but her
brain would eventually adapt- people can adapt to glasses which turn their
vision upsi-down.
> 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

        Quite welcome.

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