Spider Cages and Hand Bikes

Katie and Evan Litchy’s children, Kaina, 5, and Kason, 19 months, are like other
children their age. Kaina (pronounced Kay-nuh) enjoys playing with her dollhouse and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. She’s working on writing and cutting with scissors. Kason (pronounced Kay-son) loves food. He’s walking independently, but occasionally uses a piece of furniture for balance.

These are easy, everyday things for kids, right?

For Kaina and Kason, it takes a little more help to master developmental milestones.

Early Issues
Katie carried Kaina to 39.5 weeks gestation. Because Katie developed placenta previa, where the placenta partially or totally covers the mother’s cervix, a cesarean section was required. Kaina came into the world on January 2, 2008, weighing nine pounds, six ounces.

“She was a good size baby,” recalls Katie. “We were shocked when she needed the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). It was a big, confusing whirlwind of events.” Kaina developed breathing issues shortly after birth, had seizures and wasn’t interested in eating.

“It was hard,” said Evan. “We thought we’d have her and go home.”

Katie and Evan leaned on Holly Benjamin, a friend who happened to be a licensed practical nurse in Altru’s pediatric clinic, for help better understanding medical information.

“She was a big help,” said Katie. “Holly helped us further understand what was happening. Between her, Dr. Eric Lunn and Dr. Susan Zelewski, our pediatricians, and the staff in the NICU, we knew exactly how Kaina’s issues were treated.”

After two months in the NICU, Kaina finally went home. A MIC-KEY gastrostomy tube, or g-tube, provided Kaina with nourishment directly to her stomach. At her three month well check, Dr. Zelewski recommended pediatric speech and occupational therapy to encourage Kaina to eat on her own again.

“She was six months old before she finally took a bottle,” said Katie. “We have Jennifer Anhorn (speech/language pathologist) and Stephanie Suedel (occupational therapist) to thank.” Kaina’s g-tube was removed when she was 21 months old.

When she was one year old, Kaina Litchy was hospitalized with double ear infections, pneumonia and RSV, a serious respiratory virus in children. Her parents, Katie and Evan, were surprised to see some of Kaina’s therapists walk through the door to check on her.

“That showed they were truly vested in our daughter,” said Katie. “We knew they would do everything they could to give her the best life possible.”

Sibling Therapy
While Kaina continued to make progress with her therapists, little brother Kason was born on June 4, 2011. When he was two months old, Dr. Zelewski noticed a ridge forming on Kason’s head. Surgery was performed by neurosurgeon Dr. Nicholas Wetjen at Mayo Clinic to correct the craniosynostosis so his brain and head could continue to grow properly. Following surgery, the Litchy’s worked with Altru’s Steve Sattler, certified orthotist, to fit Kason with a cranial shaping helmet.

Because Kason was delayed in crawling and walking, he, too, works with physical therapist Liz Olson to bring his skills along. He’s often caught watching Kaina during therapy sessions.

“It helped Kason initially to see Kaina at therapy,” said Katie. “They both want to come to therapy because it seems like playtime to them. They love working in the spider cage and riding the hand bikes. Kaina said she wants a hand bike at home. The therapists do a great job. They get a change from the kids in just 45 minutes.”

In addition to continuing therapy, Kaina receives follow-up with Dr. Donald Hagler, a visiting pediatric cardiologist from Mayo Clinic. He monitors Kaina’s atrial septal defect in her heart which causes her to have high blood pressure in her lungs. Kaina also sees Janelle Askvig for physical therapy to due to an extremely mild case of cerebral palsy.

Katie and Evan are confident Kaina and Kason will stay at about the same skill level as others their age, thanks to their team of therapists at Altru. They hope for the day when they no longer need therapy.

“It was overwhelming at first, having both of your children in therapy,” said Katie. “We trust the therapy team and know they do their best for our children.”

“They treat them as their own kids,” said Evan. “What more could we ask for?”

 Do you have personal experience with Altru’s Pediatric Therapy Services? Tell us your story.

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