“I love working with Brooke and her mom. They are a great pair, and Brooke has grown into a wonderful, independent young woman who can advocate for herself. She went from being a sweet kid who couldn’t walk five steps without pain to this vibrant college student who treks over here from Northeastern University, bringing me a latte, ready to conquer the world,” says Dr. Kate Ackerman, medical director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Female Athlete Program.
Brooke Lombardi, her mother Shari and Ackerman have a pretty special relationship. Brooke, who grew up in Miami, started seeing Ackerman in 2010 when she was 15. Today, Ackerman helps Brooke, a college student who continues to have minor medical issues, navigate the health care system, helping to provide a safety net for a young adult far from home.
Shortly after Julia Duplin was born, doctors diagnosed her with brachial plexus birth palsy; some of the nerves running from her upper spinal cord to her left arm had been damaged during birth. The early prognosis was that she would have some level of disability in her left arm.
Seventeen years later, she’s captain of Winthrop High School’s gymnastic team. She whips around the uneven bars with apparent ease and effortlessly flips across the sprung floor. How did Julia journey from an awkward toddler who crawled using only her right arm to a gymnastics powerhouse?
From the beginning, Julia’s parents Dianne and Joseph committed themselves to her recovery, encouraging her to do as much as possible and not letting her brachial plexus injury hold her back.
“Many brachial plexus patients go on to excel in sports despite the limits of the affected arm,” says Peter Waters, MD, chief of Boston Children’s Hospital Orthopedic Center. “If a child has the drive, talent and passion for sports, a brachial plexus injury won’t hold her back.” …
Seven-year-old Hunter Ripley is a boy of few words. There’s a rare “bye-bye” to his mother as he sets off for school and an occasional “whee” when he’s pushed on his adaptive swing. So when Hunter screamed, “I got a bike!” at the local pool where he does aquatic therapy every Thursday evening, everyone in the pool went silent. “Then the cheering started,” recalls his mother Bekah Ripley.
In February, Bekah and her husband Bart learned about The Great Bike Giveaway, a national contest in which children with special needs can win their own adaptive bike. In order to win, Hunter needed votes and lots of them. Within 48 hours of entering the contest, Hunter had 500 votes—not enough to win, but enough for Bekah to believe that it was possible. So she pulled out all the stops. The Ripleys reached out to families and friends across the U.S., and Hunter’s respite worker called local news stations in Albany, N.Y., to ask them about posting Hunter’s story on Facebook. And when the ABC affiliate aired an interview with the family, Hunter skyrocketed from 16th to first place. He won the contest by nearly 7,500 votes.
“I never thought he’d win. It’s mind-boggling,” says Bekah.
But it’s not the first time Hunter has overcome the odds.
After Hunter was born, doctors told his parents he probably wouldn’t live through the night. Bekah had suffered a maternal-fetal hemorrhage, and Hunter’s umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck. His brain was severely injured. …
“You want a hospital with the best technology and the best nurses and doctors in the country. You expect that, and you expect it to be clean. Boston Children’s has all of that,” says Lisa Findlay, a mom from Hayden, Idaho.
“What made the difference was how much everyone loves these kids. Everyone who walked into Aaron’s room, from the surgeons to nurses’ aides to janitors and child life specialists, was on a mission to help Aaron.”
From the time he was born, Aaron encountered one medical challenge after another.
He was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a serious congenital heart defect. By the time he was three years old, Aaron had undergone three surgeries, suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with Factor V Leiden, a blood clot disorder. The stroke left him confined to a wheelchair and caused cognitive impairment. Aaron also developed severe scoliosis.
By age 16, he was a veteran of children’s hospitals from Washington to Texas. …