Darian and Jordan are like most two-year-old twins. They play together, fight over toys and vie for their parents’ attention. At night, they’ll arrange themselves in their beds so they can hold hands.
After a healthy pregnancy and delivery, Rachel and Eddie were excited to get their daughters home to meet their big brother Kaden who lovingly calls them “the sisters”. When Jordan was one month old, she was scheduled to have an operation to fix a hernia she’d had since birth. Prior to the surgery, her doctor discovered a heart murmur. Later tests showed that Jordan had a more serious heart defect and she underwent open-heart surgery in Kansas City when she was five months old. By the time the girls were almost two, Rachel and Eddie noticed that neither of the twins were crawling or hitting other developmental milestones. It was then that Eddie’s mother suggested they have the girls evaluated at Heartspring.
Jordan started seeing physical therapist Cheryl Jabara in November 2008 and Darian began physical therapy with Shannon Ratermann one week later.
Darian was only walking on her knees when she first started working with Shannon. In less than a year she is walking upright independently and loves to jump on the trampoline, smiling while she repeats “Boing, boing, boing”. Current therapy activities include learning to stand on one foot and throw overhand and underhand. Climbing stairs proves to be difficult for Darian, but carrying her favorite plastic fish up the stairs to put in the toy aquarium is a big motivating factor according to Shannon. “Darian has improved a great deal over the past eight months,” she said.
Although Darian has experienced success in physical therapy, Jordan continues to struggle, still only walking with assistance. Learning to walk is her main goal during physical therapy sessions. Since coming to Heartspring Pediatric Services, Jordan is pulling herself up to stand with the support of furniture or the wall. “She cruises along anything stationary to get around at home, but is still not able to walk on her own,” said her therapist Cheryl. She has taken a few independent steps during therapy. Cheryl uses a partial body weight training treadmill program to facilitate the appropriate way to use her legs and feet and encourage independent stepping. Recently Jordan began taking steps on the treadmill without the assistance of Cheryl, much to the delight of her dad Eddie and Cheryl. “That’s what I like about Heartspring…the excitement they have,” said Eddie when he saw Cheryl’s enthusiastic reaction to Jordan taking steps on her own on the treadmill.
Jordan receives speech services at Heartspring in addition to physical therapy, mainly to focus on feeding issues. While she was in the hospital following her open-heart surgery, she was fed through a nasogastric tube and was intubated for 24 hours, which likely caused her to have aversions to things in and around her mouth. She also developed severe reflux. Together, these experiences have made Jordan hypersensitive to textures of food other than pureed baby foods. Speech-language pathologist Diane Gough has been working with Jordan to increase her ability to tolerate new textures and she has gradually begun to eat several new foods, enjoying meals and snacks like a typical two year old. According to Diane, she’s still not eating everything that children her age are eating, but she’s improved a lot.
Diane is also working with Jordan to strengthen the muscles around her mouth to help her make new sounds and say new words. “She was always able to get her wants and needs met, but now she can do it in an age appropriate way,” said Diane.
Rachel and Eddie are happy with the services the girls receive at Heartspring. “We’re glad to be here,” said Rachel. “The girls are still struggling but I know it’s a process. We know to work at home with the girls and the therapists are good about giving us tips to help with therapy at home.”
Attending therapy at Heartspring has also helped the girls overcome their tendency to shy away from adults, something that has Rachel and Eddie smiling.
Having an organization like Heartspring available for his family means a lot to Eddie. “I didn’t know something like this existed here,” he said. “Coming here, I see that the therapists actually care about (the girls). You can tell by just watching the people that work here that they like it.”
Rachel and Eddie attend therapy with the girls every week. Their dedication to their daughters’ therapies will help ensure their eventual success.