Located in the rear of the Rehabilitation Services area is a colorful, welcoming gym complete with bright blue elevated mats, slides, stairs, an exercise room and a quiet room designed to reduce the distractions infants and toddlers can experience during therapy. A regulation-height basketball goal stands outside the back door.
Many patients recovering from surgery for brain tumors experience problems with strength, conditioning, balance, movement and walking. The Physical Therapy group uses this equipment as well as hands-on techniques to make these children better able to play safely.
Earning little victories along the way is the goal for patients—progressing from standing and holding themselves up, to walking from the therapist to a parent, to using a walker to scoot across the shiny gym floors that are decorated with tiny footprints.
One of these patients, an energetic 5-year-old girl, spent her time in physical therapy riding a bike and enjoying time on the scooter.
The therapy was hidden in the fun.
“Kids learn by playing, and to most of them, that is what we’re doing,” says physical therapist Kristin Scobey. “But we know that we’re providing a therapeutic intervention to improve their function, get them stronger and get them back home to their activities and their friends and family so they can be doing what they enjoyed before.”
Rather than waiting for treatment-associated problems to arise, several members of the Physical Therapy team are collaborating with other St. Jude researchers to test interventions that might limit these problems in the first place. For example, therapists are assessing whether exercise may reduce the adverse effects of cranial irradiation. In another study, therapists are exercising children with bone cancer in hopes of speeding their post-surgical recovery. Physical Therapy also has an obesity clinic to teach overweight survivors how to manage their weight.
Abridged from Promise, Autumn 2013