Pumping away cerebral palsy

FRESNO, Calif.

Kim Taylor calls her son Matthew the real life Forrest Gump.

"He will just run and run and run. We have to make him stop," said Kim Taylor.

It's something she thought she'd never see the teen do.

"He was 15 months when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy," Kim said. "We were told he'd probably never walk unassisted."

Matthew has had three major surgeries, wore leg braces and received Botox injections to reduce spasticity, painful and uncontrollable muscle spasms and tightness millions with CP suffer, but he eventually developed a tolerance to Botox. That's what when doctors tried a new pump that is bringing relief.

"What the baclofen pump does is help relax muscles that are pulling things out of their natural position," Louise Spierre, M.D., assistant professor and program director for pediatric rehabilitation at the University of Florida in Jacksonville, explained.

Implanted under the skin it continuously shoots "baclofen" directly to the spine. Doctor Louise Spierre believes it's a better option than Botox and baclofen pills.

"The problem with the pills that are out there is that they go equally to the brain where they cause sleepiness," Dr. Spierre said. "The advantage of the pump is that the medication is all delivered to the spine so very little of it ends up in the brain."

In some patients the pump can reduce muscle stiffness and spasms immediately. Matthew started feeling the effects in a week. Now he's traded in his braces for Nikes.

"It felt good. I felt loose. I felt great," Matthew Taylor said.

He runs cross-country for his high school and half-marathons to raise money for sick kids.

"To watch him run the marathon and go 13.1 miles without stopping and finish with a smile on his face brings such joy," Kim said.

"If it wasn't for the pump, I'd be in a wheelchair right now," Matthew said.

The pump is refilled every 3 to 6 months, and replaced every 5 to 7 years. The dosage can easily be turned up or down. Risks of the device include over or under medication and infection from surgery.

Some of the pumps were recalled in 2011 due to low battery performance, but doctor Spierre says that problem has been fixed.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Louise Spierre, MD
University of Florida
(904) 633-0926

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