Condition: Right-Sided Hemiplegia
The race of a lifetime. Runner demonstrates the power of perseverance
Caitlyn knows what it means to run your own race. As a baby, Caitlyn was diagnosed with right-sided hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that makes it difficult for her to move and control the right side of her body. Doctors made the diagnosis after a CAT scan revealed that Caitlyn had a stroke in utero.
“We were told she would probably never walk or talk,” says Caitlyn’s mother, Carrie.
Instead, Caitlyn was walking at age 2 and talking just before she turned 3. That same year, Caitlyn became a patient at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California, and her mother says it was the best thing that’s happened to her family.
“They are some of the best people I’ve ever met,” says Carrie, who balanced carpool duties to soccer, dance and other activities with trips with Caitlyn from their home in Carson City to the Shriners Hospital in Sacramento.
Treatments included injections of botulinum toxin (commonly referred to as “botox”) to increase mobility and decrease pain and three major surgeries — two on her hand and wrist and one on her foot. Physical therapy followed each surgery, and Caitlyn was fitted for orthotics, custom designed and fitted on-site by the hospital’s skilled orthotists.
The care Shriners Hospital provided Caitlyn throughout her childhood enabled her to pursue her dreams — including a chance to run competitively.
As a youngster, Caitlyn was determined to try every sport. She played goalie in soccer, took a swing at softball and enjoyed horseback riding, dance, cheerleading and gymnastics.
In high school, Caitlyn turned her attention to running and joined the track team. She wanted to prove to herself and others that she could be a runner. Her performance and positive attitude earned her a track scholarship to attend William Jessup University, in Rocklin, a suburb of Sacramento.
“Caitlyn always wants to be challenged,” says her coach Parker Daniells, who directs William Jessup’s cross-country and track and field programs. She embraces every workout no matter how difficult and her eagerness is infectious, he says, adding that Caitlyn is the first physically challenged athlete to join the team. Practice and perseverance earned the 20-year-old runner a place in the summer 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships in Minnesota. Caitlyn says it was a life-changing experience. She returned home with bronze medals in the 100- and 200-meter races.
“I was so used to running against people who I would never come close to beating, people that got to experience track without limitations,” Caitlyn says. “At nationals, I got to compete firsthand (against) people that know exactly how I’m feeling when I’m on the track.” There are two packs in track – one in front and one in back.
“For the first time in my life, I was in the front pack and it was a really good feeling,” she says. “I was so used to chasing people. At nationals, people were chasing me down the track.”
Not one to stand still, Caitlyn is chasing another goal. After graduating with her degree in developmental psychology, Caitlyn wants to become a child life specialist. Caitlyn says she loved her experience at Shriners Hospital so much she hopes to work there one day.
“I feel at home there,” she says. “They made me feel safe. If I had my life on the line, I would want Shriners doctors to help me.”