As a child, Dr. Jan Brunstrom-Hernandez knew she wanted to go into medicine when she grew up, but she had no intention of treating cerebral palsy patients.
“I didn’t want to be surrounded by more of me,” she told Fox News. “I didn’t feel good about myself because of my disability.”
In fact, it sometimes embarrassed her, so she avoided glancing at her reflection in windows as she struggled to walk down the street.
But after she and Dr. Mike Noetzel with the St. Louis Children’s Hospital discussed the lack of advancement in cerebral palsy studies since the 1960s, Brunstrom-Hernandez opened the country’s first cerebral palsy-dedicated clinic, United Cerebral Palsy.
Since May 1998, she and her staff have treated nearly 2,000 cerebral palsy patients from around the world. For the last 10 years, Anna Marie Champion and her seventh-grade daughter, Morgan, have traveled to St. Louis from Atlanta.
“We went to St. Louis and it was a whole different approach,” Champion said of Morgan’s treatment. “It has turned her life around completely.”
Brunstrom-Hernandez may owe the success of her clinic to her own mother, who seemed to know that constant movement was the secret to a cerebral palsy patient’s success.
“Her mother made her keep moving, even requiring her to stand in the kitchen to do dishes when it was the last thing the little girl wanted to do,” Fox News reported. “Moving around the clinic [now], only Brunstrom-Hernandez’s gait shows any effects of her cerebral palsy.”
Difficulty walking is one of many cerebral palsy symptoms, which range from mild to severe, according to Mayo Clinic. Others include tremors; drooling; speech, vision, and/or hearing impairment; and rigidity or spasticity.
The 50-year-old doctor now stresses the importance of exercise to patients, such as 15-year-old Sam Ward, who said, “She helps me walk better. Just be better.”
Brunstrom-Hernandez says the doctor-patient relationship has mutual benefits.
“They saved my life,” she said. “They taught me how to believe in myself. They taught me how to look at myself differently.”
Cerebral palsy can sometimes be caused by oxygen deprivation or a head injury at birth. Below, Cleveland medical malpractice lawyer Chris Mellino discusses how to determine the cause of your baby’s cerebral palsy, what to do if your baby suffered a birth injury, and how a medical malpractice attorney may be able to help.