Today was another step in helping Lila become a stronger, more independent little girl. One of Lila’s biggest challenges is having limited use of her right arm and hand. The area of her brain that controls movements to the upper right side of her body doesn’t send the right signals to her muscles. Having limited use of her arm keeps Lila from sitting independently and crawling (because she doesn’t want to bear weight on her arm). Lila can open her fingers to hold onto certain things, but extending her arm to reach is very difficult.
After Lila completed constraint therapy last February, she had much greater use of her right. But almost as soon as the cast came off, Lila reverted to her old ways. In her 18-month-old mind, I imagined her thinking, “My left side is so functional and easy to use, so why bother with the right?”
For more than a year, Lila’s therapists, orthotist and myself have been putting our heads together to come up with some kind of removable casting system that would allow us to constrain her left arm during the day to encourage her to use her right arm. We tried a traditional soft cast that was cut up the side, but it was cumbersome and difficult to put on. I even considered making my own cast system out of those foam noodles that kids use in the pool.
Finally, Lila’s orthotist, Scott, decided to try something new. We gave him the go-ahead, even though we knew there was a chance insurance wouldn’t cover this “new” contraption. Scott took a mold of Lila’s arm and we let her pick out the purple color and fancy butterfly design. I wasn’t sure what this would look like, or how Lila would respond to it.
We went to Scott’s office today and tried on the cast for the first time. The material is the same plastic that is used for Lila’s leg braces. There are two pieces that are held together with velcro and a few holes in the hand for air circulation. Lila was not happy putting the cast on, but once she got used to it and added her own creative touch with a pony sticker, all was ok.
I’m not sure how much Lila will wear the cast, but we’ll start out slow and learn as we go, as with everything else we do. I am just grateful that we have a team of medical professionals who is creative and active in figuring out how to help Lila be her very best. Now we cross our fingers and hope that insurance is on our side.