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news item News Monday, February 11, 2019 Monday, February 11, 2019 10:35 AM - Monday, February 11, 2019 10:35 AM

Comprehensive spinal cord injury care gives family hope

In 2015, 2-year-old Dilon had a spinal cord stroke due to complications from surgery, causing paralysis from the waist down. “Life completely turned upside down,” said Valarie, Dilon’s mother.

Valarie searched for hospitals with pediatric spinal cord injury experience in her native New Mexico. She came up short even after checking in Colorado and other neighboring states. “I would ask questions, and all they could say was ‘we don’t know.’ I had lost all hope until I saw a commercial for Shriners Hospitals for Children on television,” said Valarie.

Valarie called the number she saw on TV, which was a donation hotline. The operator redirected her to a patient services representative, who connected her to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia.

Gaining independence

Since Dilon’s first visit to the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital in May 2016 at age 3, his therapy has included using TheraStride, a body-weight support treadmill system that helps the nervous system recover its motor-learning ability.

“My goal for Dilon is for him to be as independent as he possibly can be,” Valarie said. “The Philadelphia Shriners Hospital is going to play a huge part in that.”

Dilon’s trips to the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital don’t just improve his physical status. “His emotional state has drastically improved,” said his mother. “He doesn’t feel so alone. Until we came here, he never saw another child in a wheelchair. He feels like he fits in now.”

Fitting in with friends

Back at home, Dilon is able to connect with his friends by riding his tricycle. After outgrowing his old bike, Dilon needed a new one. During one of his last physical therapy sessions at the hospital, Dilon’s physical therapist, Ali Kazim, delivered some exciting news. Someone had just dropped off a donation that included the very type of bike that Dilon needed. This special bike is propelled by turning the handles rather than pedaling.

With the help of the hospital’s seating technician, Robert Townsend, Dilon was fitted for his bike and immediately sped down the rehabilitation department hallways. Dilon said he calls Robert “Robin” because “he’s a superhero who fixes everything!”

Before coming to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia, Dilon was unable to hold himself up. Now, he can crawl on his knees and balance to sit on his bike. Valarie said, “The improvements we’ve seen have been wonderful.”

When Valarie and Dilon head back home to New Mexico, their supportive team at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital will be just a phone call away. “We have the support of such knowledgeable personnel. They give us therapy plans to do at home, and I know I can call if I have questions,” said Valarie. “If you’re looking for hope, Shriners Hospitals for Children is the place to go. You’re not just a patient ID here. It’s not just a hospital – you’re a part of the Shriners family.”

Now whenever a commercial for Shriners Hospitals for Children comes on, Valarie says Dilon crawls or uses his wheelchair to get right in front of the TV. “He loves the commercials. Every time he sees them, or even hears one come on TV, he says, ‘I love Shriners. All those kids are Shriners kids like me – they are all my friends. Maybe someday I will be on TV with them,’” Valerie said. “We truly love our Shriners Hospital – it is such an uplifting place and gives us hope for the future.”