Learning to Crawl Again

A baby rebounds from a traumatic brain injury with the help of Children's Specialized Hospital.

On the afternoon of January 8, 2019, Olivia Lopes got a frightening phone call: Her mother, nephew and 7-month-old son had been in an accident. While the three were walking home from her nephew’s school, a vehicle had jumped the curb and struck them from behind. Olivia’s mother and nephew suffered multiple fractures. Infant LJ, who had been in his car seat in a wagon being pulled by his grandmother, suffered the most extensive injuries as the car seat became dislodged and soared 70 feet away.

“When we finally got in to see LJ, he was on life support,” Olivia recalls. “He had multiple skull fractures, orbital fractures, severe brain trauma and a broken leg, and w as having difficulty moving his right arm.” LJ spent 21 days in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit before being transferred to the Brain Injury Program at Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH) in New Brunswick. There, a team of specialists developed a customized rehabilitation program to address his medical, physical, cognitive and psychosocial needs.

Within a week, however, his family and team realized something wasn’t right with LJ. He was transferred to the Emergency Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where a C..T scan led to a diagnosis of hydrocephalus. With this condition, excess cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the ventricles (cavities) of the brain and increases pressure within the head, causing head enlargement, headaches, impaired vision, cognitive difficulties and loss of coordination. A shunt was surgically inserted into a ventricle to drain the excess fluid.

Skills regained
LJ returned to CSH on February 11 to continue his rehabilitation journey. He quickly bonded with his inpatient team, particularly enjoying aquatic therapy. “Once they got LJ into the pool, there was no stopping him,” says Olivia. “He loved it, and the resistance of the water forced him to start using his right arm more.” LJ spent another two months at Children’s Specialized working with physical, occupational, speech-language and recreational therapists. “The progress he made at Children’s Specialized was amazing,” says Olivia. “After the accident, he lost all of his muscle memory. The team worked with him day in and day out, helping him to learn how to roll, crawl, stand and walk.”

LJ went home on April 8. He is now attending outpatient therapy sessions three days a week at the CSH location in Hamilton, working hard to build strength in his right arm and learn how to suck and swallow properly. “We still keep in touch with the remarkable therapists and care team at Children’s Specialized, updating them on LJ’s progress,” Olivia says. “We’re forever grateful for the care that Children’s Specialized provided to our son.” To learn more about Children’s Specialized Hospital, call 888.244.5373 or visit www.childrens-specialized.org.