When most children take their first steps, they’re unaware of their parents’ excitement. But when Marrie Bottelson took her first steps at Gillette’s new Lifetime Specialty Care Clinic this fall, she giggled and said, “I can’t wait to tell my mother. She’s going to fall out of her seat!” Born with cerebral palsy, Bottelson, 26, has used a wheelchair for most of her life. As an adult, she occasionally sought treatment for her cerebral palsy, but her choices in specialized health care were limited and she found the therapy less than she’d hoped for. “I didn’t know where to go,” she explained.
“But when I heard that Gillette was opening a clinic for adults with cerebral palsy, I was excited.” In fact, Bottelson visited the clinic on October 4, 2001, its first day of business and became the clinic’s first patient.
Bottelson’s visit to the Lifetime Specialty Care Clinic began with an occupational therapist, who discussed splints for Bottelson’s hands and wrists, then worked on expanding her range of motion. Next, the seat of Bottelson’s motorized wheelchair was adjusted to make her more comfortable and prevent pressure sores. After her seating adjustment, Bottelson moved to the rehabilitation gym for physical therapy. Her physical therapist, Laura Gueron, suggested using a Rifton Pacer Gait Trainer, a device that helps support people who have difficulty walking. After taking her first steps and eventually walking the full length of the corridor Bottelson’s smile was as wide as the hall itself.
Adults with a “Child’s Disability”
Because cerebral palsy is diagnosed and first treated in childhood, it’s often considered a “child’s disability.” Adults with the condition often find their medical needs unmet. Studies have shown that, after adolescence, people with cerebral palsy are less likely to get medical care of any sort and much less likely to get specialized medical care for their condition. That’s especially troubling because disabilities tend to accelerate the body’s natural aging process. If adults with cerebral palsy aren’t seeing a doctor who understands the issues related to their condition or if they’re not seeing a doctor at all they risk developing serious health complications.
Meeting Special Needs
Gillette opened the Lifetime Specialty Care Clinic to give adults with cerebral palsy the specialized care they need. The clinic also links clients with primary-care providers who can supply ongoing health care in the clients’ own communities.
In addition, because many primary-care providers are unfamiliar with the effects cerebral palsy can have on other health conditions, the Lifetime Specialty Care Clinic serves as a resource when questions arise. Despite opening its doors less than a month ago, the clinic is already very busy. “The need for this specialized care is obvious,” explained Ronna Linroth, clinic manager. “We’ll continue to grow to meet the needs of the patients.”
The clinic provides access to a team of experienced specialists, including physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, and a social worker specializing in adult issues. The clinic offers treatments for specialty medical needs, including muscle spasticity, as well as assessments to determine if clients would benefit from braces, splints, custom seating, communication devices, and other adaptive equipment.
Because the clinic is located next to the Gillette Technology Center, the Center’s orthotists and seating specialists who can create, modify, and adjust customized adaptive equipment and seating are readily available.
Clients of the clinic also have access to social workers, and speech and language therapists. Teenage clients can learn ways to successfully negotiate the transition from pediatricians to health-care providers for adults. The clinic also offers options for dealing with adult issues such as choosing a career; becoming self-supporting; handling dating, marriage, and children; managing pain; maintaining a healthy weight; dealing with menstrual and gastrointestinal or feeding concerns; and coming to terms with grief and loss issues related to disabilities.
The Difference of Specialized Care
Most health-care facilities have only a cursory understanding of cerebral palsy, but Gillette has been caring for children with disabilities for more than 100 years. At the Lifetime Specialty Care Clinic, clients can discuss their medical concerns with staff who have years of experience caring for patients with cerebral palsy. They examine therapy, medicine, surgery, and other options for managing medical issues and improving their lives. The clinic uses the knowledge and expertise that has gained Gillette a world-renowned reputation for treating children, but its decor and facilities are geared toward adults. For instance, the clinic features examination chairs that recline, tilt, and support adults, making medical tests and procedures more comfortable and effective.
“It’s a great place to go for people with cerebral palsy,” said Bottelson. “I like how they treated me and pushed me to do more than I’ve ever been able to do before.” For Bottelson and the 13,000 children and adults with cerebral palsy in Minnesota, the Lifetime Specialty Care Clinic offers new hope for a healthy future.