November 29, 2016
Beating the Odds with Aspire, One Day at a Time
Just four-and-a-half years old, Alexander Diaz has been through more surgeries, seen more specialists and spent more time in a hospital than most people do in a lifetime. He spent the first 100 days of his life in a neonatal intensive care unit, where he was diagnosed with congenital heart defects, congenital scoliosis, hypertension, hypothyroidism, acid reflux, bilateral hearing loss, anomalies of the ear canals and a type 1 laryngeal cleft.
In the months that followed, doctors discovered that Alex also had a cyst on his brain, neurogenic bladder, weakened immune system and an inflamed duodenum, along with spinal cord anomalies, swallowing and feeding difficulties, and developmental delays.
But Alex is not defined by these challenges. “He’s a fighter,” said his mom, Tobey Vistine. “no matter how bad things get, he always has a smile on his face.” That’s because he’s not alone; backing him up are tireless parents, a caring older brother, plus an army of Aspire therapists who’ve been working with Alex since he was five months old.
His strongest bond is with Occupational Therapist Jennifer Rhein. “Alex is an incredible little boy with a one-of-a kind personality,” said Jenn, who’s been working with Alex for the past four years, helping him make small but important accomplishments, such as gaining the strength and dexterity in his hands to grasp objects on his own. Tobey reinforces these techniques at home, helping continue Alex’s progress.
“HE’S A FIGHTER,” SAID HIS MOM, TOBEY VISTINE. “NO MATTER HOW BAD THINGS GET, HE ALWAYS HAS A SMILE ON HIS FACE.”
“Part of our role has been helping Tobey navigate the medical community so she can advocate for Alex,” said Aspire Physical Therapist and Team Leader Ann-Preston Bosher. That navigation was especially important late last year, in the months prior to Alex’s spinal fusion surgery.
It was to be his biggest procedure to date, with doctors removing vertebrae, grafting bones and inserting rods and screws to correct a 72-degree arc in Alex’s spine. To help prepare him for the ordeal, Jenn and other therapists worked with his doctors to formulate a pre-surgery program to help build Alex’s core strength and improve his balance and coordination. Aspire’s plan worked; now three months post-surgery, Alex is completely mobile and gradually returning to his previous endurance and strength levels.
While his healthcare challenges are far from over, “Alex has made a lot of progress,” said Tobey. “No matter how large or small your problem might be, Aspire can help.”
“They’re not just great advocates for kids,” she added, “they’re like family.”
Learn more about Aspire Kids at aspirechicago.com/kids or call 708.236.0979.
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