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Standing On My Own

Patient Maria learns to stand with help from Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services.

Doctors discovered that Maria had spina bifida when her mother, Natielli, was pregnant. While they initially wanted to do intrauterine surgery, they decided to wait, as she had a large fatty mass which covered most of her spine. After giving Maria some time to grow, when she was 6 months old she had surgery that removed 70% of the lipoma from her back.

Knowing that her daughter would need continued care, therapy and possibly another surgery, Natielli began to research several care options for Maria. She soon found out about Shriners Children’s Philadelphia and the excellent wrap-around care they could provide for Maria’s needs.

”Every time we would come, Maria was well taken care of, and the hospital had everything they needed for her," said Natielli.

At Shriners Children’s Philadelphia, Maria has a whole team of doctors, therapists and certified orthotists from Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services (POPS). She has received various types of braces (orthotics) to help her each day, and will receive them as she continues to grow.

Most spina bifida orthotic intervention involves either some type of ankle foot orthoses (AFO) or knee ankle foot orthoses (KAFO), which prevent contractures and helps provide stability for children who are learning to stand.

Maria, now 5, receives AFOs for positioning, and uses a hip knee ankle foot orthosis (HKAFO) for standing. She wanted to be like her peers, and has always been very determined to stand. The POPS team fabricated HKAFOs to help her with hip control and standing.

Maria came home one day and asked why she was the only one in her class who didn’t stand. She wanted to be able to stand face-to-face with her classmates.
Maria's mother, Natielli

Although she cannot stand for long periods of time yet, Maria is so excited to use her HKAFO brace to get her out of her wheelchair and gain some independence. The braces provided by POPS have been more than physically transformational for Maria. They have also made her more independent and confident.

“Maria is exceptional, and her positive outlook on life is obvious at such a young age”, said Rich Schloendorn, certified orthotic technician. “We can’t wait to see all she can accomplish with her continued PT and determination.”

“Maria is the kind of kid you love to make braces for because she is so motivated to stand,” said Becky Suddaby, certified orthotist. “The look of joy and pride on her face when she stands up for the first time in her new HKAFOs is so heartwarming. We are hopeful that one day, when she is a little older, we can upgrade her to a reciprocating gait orthosis (RGO) to get her walking!”

Today, Maria is in kindergarten and loves Paw Patrol, Super Mario Bros., and anything mermaid!

Maria during orthotics fitting

Maria getting fitted for her HKAFOs, which will help her with standing on her own.

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