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RIC Therapy Helps Kindergartner with Brain Cancer Reclaim Mobility

 New Lenox Resident Makes Grand Progress from Therapy Offered at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital  

New Lenox, IL (August 15, 2013) — When New Lenox residents Ted and Krystal Wilson’s three-year old daughter, Elizabeth “Ellie,” awoke from a nap during a Memorial Day barbeque in 2011, they never imagined how their daughter’s life would be changed. 

“Ellie woke up acting a little odd. She was so unstable she could barely walk and started to cry because she was scared,” said Krystal Wilson, Ellie’s mother. “She described feeling ‘wobbly,’ and could only take a few steps.” After going to her pediatrician, it was discovered that Ellie’s tongue was quivering which often is a sign of a neurological issue. Ellie immediately had a CT scan, where a mass was found in her brain. Shortly after, the mass was diagnosed as a medulloblastoma—the most common malignant (cancerous) brain tumor in children.  During the next two years, Ellie had 12 surgeries, and radiation and chemo therapy treatments that left her tiny body not able to sit-up, speak, make facial expressions, swallow, walk or hold a crayon. Now after almost 2 years of physical, occupational and speech therapies at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) at Silver Cross Hospital, located at I-355 and Route 6 in New Lenox, Ellie is not only able to sit up and swallow food, she can color, get dressed, feed herself and take a few steps without her walker. 

Photo caption: Staff from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital pose with brain cancer patient and New Lenox resident Ellie Wilson, who has regained her mobility due to therapy she received at the hospital.  Pictured from left to right in the first row are Patty McQuinn, Senior Physical Therapist; patient Ellie Wilson;  and Maribeth O’Connor, Senior Occupational Therapist; and in the back row are Ellie’s parents Ted and Krystal Wilson with Ellie’s little brother Jaxen.Member of the care team not pictured is Kris Peters, Senior Speech Pathologist.

What is Medulloblastoma?

Medulloblastoma is a cancerous tumor that occurs in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance, coordination and other complex functions. Most patients have symptoms of headache and vomiting, and can also have problems with balance and vision when they are diagnosed. Medulloblastomas arise from primitive, undeveloped cells in the brain. The exact cause of a medulloblastoma is unknown. 

After her treatments were complete to eliminate the medulloblastoma, the challenge remained to re-train Ellie’s body to activate when her brain cued it to do a movement. So in September of 2011, Ellie began therapy at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital that included three-times a week sessions of physical, occupational and speech therapies.  

After two years of occupational therapy, her hand, arm, trunk and neck strength and control have greatly improved, allowing her to complete daily activities with more independence.  “We continue to build on Ellie’s strength, coordination, and endurance,” said Maribeth O’Connor, Senior Occupational Therapist at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital. “We also taught Ellie and her parents strategies to use to build strength in her shoulders, arms, and hands and improve her fine motor skills. Her movements are now more refined; for example she can now maintain her balance while dressing, feeding herself, and helping with food and dessert preparation.”  

Another key to Ellie’s success are her parents’ dedication to encourage her to be independent. O’Connor adds, “Ellie’s parents are in the mind-set that she can learn to do anything and they don’t want to put limitations on her.  We give them suggestions and they take the idea and expound on it. For example, we suggested for her to work on keeping her trunk upright while moving her arms and shoulders against some resistance, and the next week they came to therapy showing us a video on their smartphone of Ellie mixing a large bowl of cake batter and using a rolling pin to spread out cookie dough. The idea was not only a practical way to increase strength and coordination, but it was also a fun way to engage Ellie in the activity.” 

Recently, she even took a few steps on her own without using her walker. This huge milestone can be attributed to the work the RIC therapists did with Ellie using the Hydro Track and LiteGait equipments. 

“The Hydro Track is a form of aquatic therapy which utilizes an underwater treadmill. Jets provide resistance to the movements in order to build muscle strength and body awareness. And the LiteGait is a harness that suspends the patient over a treadmill allowing partial weight bearing to the legs and triggers a primitive part of the brain to take steps automatically,” said Patty McQuinn, Senior Physical Therapist at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital. “Not all therapy centers have these devices. Fortunately, we do. As a result of using both the Hydro Track and LiteGait, Ellie’s balance and ability to make steps has greatly improved. She has become more confident and mobile as she continues to walk more securely.”  

Further, after a year of speech therapy, Ellie was able to express herself to others with less difficulty and frustration. “In addition, through the use of specific strategies, her swallowing skills improved enough that she no longer needed a G-tube for her nutrition,” said Kris Peters, Senior Speech Pathologist with The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital. 

“By coming to Silver Cross patients have access to specialized care plans similar to those that are offered at RIC’s downtown Chicago location,” said Valerie Paluszak, Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital. “We are fortunate to have such highly trained and experienced physical, occupational and speech therapists working at Silver Cross, who truly make patients’ treatment successful enabling them to thrive, so they can return to their daily routines.” 

Comforting Advice to Others

“I would highly recommend The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital to patients,” said Wilson. “The therapists are all very good at their job and are wonderful people. They are committed to giving Ellie the best care, so she can be the best she can be.” 

Krystal also encourages parents who may be faced with a similar circumstance to listen to your instincts, allow others to help you and don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Parents must remember that they are their child’s advocate and nothing comes close to a parent’s instincts,” said Wilson.  “Through Ellie’s entire illness, my husband, Ted, and I were able to help our daughter because we listened to our parental instincts during times when we felt Ellie was not responding well when some felt her actions were normal. In addition, we are so appreciate of the emotional support we received from our families and friends because it alleviated some of our stress,” adds Wilson.  “Also, we continue to ask Ellie’s physicians, nurses and therapists endless questions, which give us better insight on how to care for her and help her heal successfully.” 

About the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital

Silver Cross Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) have teamed up to expand post-acute physical medicine and rehabilitation services in Will County and the southwest Chicagoland communities. The partnership provides world-class rehabilitation care for a range of conditions for patients close to home. Silver Cross is the only healthcare facility in the area with this breadth of services in partnership with RIC. Together, Silver Cross and RIC provide rehabilitation services in inpatient and outpatient care settings at four locations—at the main Hospital at I-355 and Route 6 and the Silver Cross Professional Buildings in Homer Glen, New Lenox and West Joliet. Additionally, the RIC team provides physical therapy services for patients on the hospital’s medical and surgical floors. For more information about RIC at Silver Cross, call (815) 300-7110 or visit www.silvercross.org. 

About Silver Cross Hospital
Silver Cross Hospital is a not-for-profit health care provider serving Will County and southwest suburban communities since 1895. Silver Cross has been recognized as a Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals National Award winner for seven consecutive years and as a Hospital of Choice by the American Alliance of Healthcare Providers. With over 3,000 employees, physicians and volunteers, Silver Cross operates a 289-bed acute care hospital and 9 satellite facilities providing outpatient services and physician offices. Silver Cross opened a state-of-the-art replacement hospital on February 26, 2012 at I-355 and Route 6 in New Lenox. To learn more about Silver Cross Hospital or a referral to a physician on staff, visit www.silvercross.org or call 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).

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Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care.  These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.