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One 10-year old boy's story of strength, courage and determination to ride a bike this summer.
February 3, 2009

Ten-year-old Frank Hildebrand likes to talk about playing Nintendo Wii games, his favorite Ohio State football player and his 3rd place prize in sheep showmanship at last year's Madison County Fair. He plays baseball in the summer and sleds in the winter. He went to 4-H camp for the first time last year and loved it. His parents humbly boast he gets straight A's.

What might surprise you about this London Elementary student – who says the only thing different about him is that he has "an old name" – is that he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant.

Frank Hildebrand was born premature at 27 ½ weeks weighing in at only 2 pounds and one ounce. He received neonatal intensive care for several months before going home with his parents Drew and Jenny Hildebrand.

According to United Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral palsy – also referred to as CP – is a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; around birth; or during infancy.

Cerebral palsy itself is not progressive – nor is it a "disease" – but secondary conditions, such as muscle spasticity, can develop. Although cerebral palsy is not technically "curable," training and therapy can help improve function.

In Frank Hildebrand's case, training and therapy has him looking forward to riding a bike with his mom and 6-year-old brother Jordan for the first time this summer. He has been visiting Tiffany Staley in Madison County Hospital's (MCH) Physical Therapy program twice a week for the last year since a sprained ankle sidelined him.

"Dude, you will be riding a two-wheel bike this summer," Staley told Frank Hildebrand during a recent therapy session.

Frank is still slightly skeptical, but understandably so considering when he first walked into Staley's office, Frank Hildebrand couldn't jump off the ground.

At Frank's first session with Tiffany, she prescribed some unusual therapy for a sprained ankle – core strengthening activities, like sit-ups, stretching and general fitness activities that target Frank's strength and core fitness. Today, he jumps several feet forward and clears a couple inches from a flat-footed stance.

While Staley has seen the potential in Frank and works hard to make the sessions fun for him, she says it's his determination (and a few bottles of silly string) that keeps him coming back to therapy and enjoying it. He's been to dozens of therapists over the years at large hospitals and clinics, but he rates her "number 1" on the list of therapists he's seen because she is as he describes her "really, really great and funny."

As long as he shows progress, Frank gets to continue physical therapy at MCH. And unlike many other pediatric physical therapy programs in Central Ohio, there is no waiting list at MCH.

"I don't think enough people consider staying close to home for physical therapy," said Staley, who has been at MCH for three years. "What bothers me is that often people quit going because they have to drive too far, so they end up getting no therapy at all."

"We always used to think to get good quality physical therapy you had to go to the bigger cities," said Drew Hildebrand. "But, we found something that's really working close to home, and other parents with kids with similar problems should be aware of what we have right here in London."

Frank's mother Jenny credits the new approach by Staley – along with a supportive network of Frank's friends, and a caring treatment team at London Elementary since Frank was in 1st Grade – for his adaptability to everyday "kid things."

"He's been through so much," she said of the surgeries he underwent as an infant and the years of therapy. "We couldn't ask for a better situation for him."

And, Frank couldn't ask for a better network of support – or a better outlook.

"If I don't exercise much, my leg can stiffen up, so I think I'll keep on working on it," he says with a smile.

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Madison County Hospital
210 North Main Street
London, Ohio 43140
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