You know that feeling of anxiousness you get as a roller coaster slowly goes up that first hill? How you feel a lump in your throat as it creeps up to the very top?
Twelve-year-old Alex loves that feeling. As the roller coaster climbs higher and higher, he gets more and more excited. His mom, Mary Jo, not so much.
“I’m really not scared of anything,” says Alex. “Mommy, on the other hand, is a little scaredy-cat. She was literally holding onto me.”
Alex has cerebral palsy that affects his speech and his physical movement. He’s been coming to Holland Bloorview since he was four years old. It certainly hasn’t affected his confidence or his sense of humour, Mary Jo believes. “He’s very charming,” she says. “All the nurses know him. He’s not shy.”
Alex has benefitted from the hospital’s physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy programs. They’ve enabled him to enjoy activities that feed his passion for being in motion. In addition to roller coasters, he loves swimming, horseback riding, adapted skiing, and even indoor skydiving.
Alex’s life has had ups and downs as well. His latest challenge is recovering from leg surgery involving muscle lengthening and bone repositioning.
With what feels like brand new legs, it will take time for Alex to learn to walk on his own again.
“It’s been quite the process, that’s for sure,” says Mary Jo. “He’s come a long way.”
Holland Bloorview physiotherapists help a lot of kids move independently again. Through stretching and strength training they help kids regain balance and mobility and get back on their feet, either unassisted with the help of a walker or another mobility device.
For Alex, walking up to the roller coaster gate will be well worth the hours of therapy. “I want to see mommy’s face when we go on them again,” he says.