On the move: Care for cerebral palsy helps enhance Joseph’s mobility

boy with cerebral palsy watches a red sox game
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ROMAN FAMILY

Joseph Roman is happiest on the basketball court — in fact, he loves the sport so much that if his mother, Alba, is running late on her way to pick him up for practice, he’ll send an anxious text or two to make sure she knows he can’t miss it. The 12-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, has been playing the adaptive sport for three years on a team made up of mostly adults. But the age difference doesn’t slow him down. “It’s wonderful to watch him enjoying himself so much,” says Alba.

Although Joseph was born in Florida, his parents were frustrated by the quality of services available to him there. The couple, who are originally from Massachusetts, moved back north for Joseph’s care when he was 4 years old. “We already knew that Boston Children’s is one of the top hospitals, so it made sense for us to bring our son there,” Alba explains.

Striving for more independence

In Boston, the Romans sought to help Joseph become more independent. While they knew that their son likely wouldn’t be able to walk completely unassisted, they hoped that the team at the hospital’s Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity Center could help enhance his mobility. “Our ultimate dream was for him to not spend his entire life in a wheelchair,” says his mom.

Because the spasticity, or muscle tightness, in his legs can make it difficult to control them, Joseph’s clinicians surgically implanted a baclofen pump, which releases this antispasmodic medication only to the parts of his body that need it. A few years ago, the boy also underwent a series of surgical procedures by Dr. Benjamin Shore, one of the center’s co-directors. These operations helped straighten his legs and improve function, allowing for better movement. More recently, Joseph has also begun seeing the center’s physiatrist, Dr. David Fogelman, who works with him to help strengthen his legs and improve his gait.

boy with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair and with crutches
Joseph is now able to get around with crutches, thanks to care for cerebral palsy.

Lessening the fear

Like many kids, Joseph doesn’t exactly look forward to medical appointments, but once he arrives at the hospital and sees his friends Dr. Shore and Dr. Fogelman, he relaxes a bit. “The way they both treat him and make him feel — he leaves the room smiling,” says Alba. “He likes to joke with Dr. Fogelman and talk about writing music together. These doctors help get rid of his initial fear.”

While basketball remains his first love, Joseph also enjoys playing video games and hanging out with his friends. And the various procedures he’s undergone — and his hard work at the hospital — are paying off: He’s now able to get around school on crutches. “We know that he may never walk totally without support, but the fact that he’s able to walk at all is amazing,” says Alba. “This is a wonderful thing for him, and we’re so grateful.”

Learn about the Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity Center.