Our Love. Their Courage. A Donald Berman Center
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SMALL STEPS, HARD-WON TRIUMPHS FOR 3-YEAR-OLD HADASSAH

MESHI’S INVESTMENT IN HADASSAH'S DEVELOPMENT:
Therapy Sessions PER WEEK:
4 physical therapy sessions @$50 per session
$200

2 occupational therapy sessions @$50 per session
$100

4 speech therapy sessions @ $50 per session
$200

2 communications sessions @ $50 per session
$100

16 booster sessions in various therapies by rehab aids @
$180

1 hydrotherapy @ $40 per session
$40

1 animal therapy @ $50 per session
$50

Equipment:
TheraSuit/TheraTogs
$2,500

Adaptive chair, supports, table
$650

Specially equipped computer+ accessories
$950

Stander
$950

Walker
$600

Hart Walker
$1,000

Therapeutic tricycle
$1,700
Hadassah

HadassahThree-year-old, ash-blond Hadassah S. is racing against time. The spastic athetoid cerebral palsy that struck her brain at birth has severely affected her body’s muscles, leaving her unable to sit, stand or walk independently, to speak, use her spastic hands, feed herself, or a host of other basic functions. Yet from the moment she joined Meshi one year ago, Hadassah has begun to make crucial progress, thanks to her extremely intensive schedule there of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, computer communications, and more— In short, the gift of early intervention to grant her a powerful, fleeting advantage in the struggle to develop her body and gain a better life. Academically, Hadassah is the brightest student in her Meshi nursery class. Her brown eyes miss absolutely nothing--and one look inside them reveals the curiosity, intelligence and spunk that shine straight from her soul.

“If children like Hadassah are left untreated, they really don’t stand a chance,” explains occupational therapist Sue Seela. “In Hadassah’s case, our aggressive plan of action was aimed at reaching both physical gains and at providing the right equipment to compensate for her motor limitations. Fortunately, the intensive therapies have indeed begun to increase her strength and fortify her muscles, granting her more control over her spastic hands. At first she was floppy---she couldn’t sit or stand without full support. Today she’s made impressive strides, thanks both to her strengthened muscles and to our efforts to find and purchase the proper chairs and standers for her particular disabilities. It was a great day when Hadassah was able to sit in a supportive chair, tailor-made with a table attached, that allowed her to sit next to her classmates and participate well in class.”

A major focus of the toddler’s therapy is enabling independent walking, despite her limitations.  Physical therapist Atara Tarragin is using such innovative methods as the “TheraSuit,” a treatment pioneered by Meshi in Israel that fights muscle atrophy and improves muscle tone, balance and mobility, and the “Hart Walker” device to help Hadassah gain strength and control.

Even Playing is a Daunting Task

“Hadassah’s full range of therapies are carried out in a fun and loving way,” stresses Sue Seela. “Some are one-on-one, others are given in the classroom or in groups. My goals in her occupational therapy are to help her take part as much as possible in everyday activities, such as eating, dressing, and communicating. Even playing is a daunting task for a child as disabled as Hadassah. I’m constantly seeking solutions for her, by adapting toys and games to her very limited abilities. She has a huge amount of patience for the painstaking efforts that she must make.”

At this week’s play session, Sue held up Hadassah’s personalized “communications board” and showed her pictures of the toys and games she could choose to play with. Although the child cannot use her hand to point, she laughed and shook her head to indicate her choice—a large doll with curly hair. Unable to hold the doll, she played “Mommy” by laboriously, painstakingly willing her spastic hands to grasp and squeeze chunks of play-doh to “feed” her baby. “This is the first time that she’s gained enough control over her left hand to use it in play,” Sue noted with delight.

“Hadassah already knows colors and shapes, she has a sense of humor, and she’s a child you can talk to. With someone so bright, we need to take extra care not to frustrate her, and to instill her with confidence. She’s already beginning to realize that she’s different from other children.”

A Crucial Moment in Time

At age three, Hadassah is at an ideal time to push for physical gains, with an opportunity to make progress that can have a significant effect on her lifetime condition. “She has a very long, complex road ahead of her,” Sue concedes. “No one can know if she’ll ever be able to feed herself independently or walk or speak. Yet at Meshi we’ve had a great deal of experience with highly intelligent, sensitive children like Hadassah, and we’ve helped them reach amazing achievements. Once we teach Hadassah to grasp and maneuver a custom-made joystick, for example, this will open up the wonders of the assistive technology realm. She’ll acquire full use of the computer, achieve independence in her studies, and use a special ‘talking computer,’ if necessary, to communicate with the world at large. The joystick will also allow her to operate a power wheelchair on her own. Our goal is to enable Hadassah to reach the very maximum potential she can.”

“Meshi not only saved our child, but saved our lives as well,” says Hadassah’s mother, 25-year-old Tehiya. “Hadassah’s our only child, and even though it seemed to me that her development was quite slow, she was eight months old before the doctors first used the word ‘paralysis.’ At that terrible moment, I was the one who became paralyzed!” At the time, the young family was living outside Jerusalem, and Tehiya and her husband began endless rounds of taking the infant by bus to a long roster of therapists and clinics. “We simply dropped from exhaustion,” she recalls. Finally, when Hadassah was 17 months old, they enrolled her in Meshi, which had come highly recommended by friends and therapists. “Our world changed overnight. What a blessing that all the individual therapies she’d been dragged to, far and wide, were now concentrated in one place, given by Meshi’s absolutely first-rate professionals.

Our Daughter is Happy and Loved

“Before Hadassah joined Meshi, she was 100% dependent upon us. I was her chair, her table and her stander,” Tehiya said. “Somehow we’d fallen between all the bureaucratic cracks, and we had no equipment at home whatsoever to support her limp little body. From the start, Meshi lent us everything—a chair with special supports where she can sit and eat, a stander where she can play, special shoes, the TheraSuit, a communications board, and more. Most important, they help and guide us in every facet.

“I see so much improvement in Hadassah’s eating and her speech. When the therapists called me to come see how she can sit for 10 minutes unaided on a bench, I was in total shock. But what thrilled me from day one was how the staff immediately recognized her total comprehension and related to her intelligence. I can’t express how much Meshi’s support and cooperation mean to us. We’re no longer alone.   Our daughter is happy and loved, and she’s making small but steady progress every day.”

Sue Seela agrees. “Hadassah’s putting her heart and soul into this struggle, and we’re fighting right along with her. Freeing her to become as independent as possible, to use her sharp intelligence and express her winning personality, is a gift that Meshi can give to this wonderful child.”


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