Like many of their peers, 14-year-old triplets Corbin, Jackson and Spencer Chartier lead busy, active lives, balancing school with various athletic activities. Corbin plays soccer, and Jackson participates in cross-country, track and wrestling. Although he can’t run, Spencer rides his recumbent bike several miles a day, and the brothers have all earned black belts in martial arts. Born with cerebral palsy, the suburban Chicago eighth-graders have triumphed over numerous challenges, thanks to the care they’ve received at Children’s and to their positive attitudes.
“It sounds like a cliché, but our boys have cerebral palsy — cerebral palsy does not have them,” says their dad, Darin. “It does not define them.”
Spencer, Jackson and Corbin were born in Nebraska 13 weeks premature, weighing between 1.5 and 2.6 pounds. The boys struggled from birth, particularly Spencer, who was treated as a newborn for a pulmonary hemorrhage and underwent lung surgery.
The brothers were diagnosed with cerebral palsy when they were 1-year-old. Cerebral palsy is a group of chronic conditions affecting body movements and muscle coordination caused by damage to the brain, usually occurring during fetal development or infancy. There is no cure for the illness, and the severity and symptoms of each case are unique.
In 2009, the Chartier triplets led an exercise warm-up for hundreds of construction workers at Lurie Children's.
When the boys were 8, the family moved to the Chicago area, where they began receiving care from a variety of specialists at Children’s, particularly Luciano S. Dias, MD, in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery. Corbin has the hypotonic form of the disease, which weakens his muscles, especially in his arms and hands. He also sees specialists at Children’s for heart and growth issues.
Spencer and Jackson have the hypertonic form of the disease, which makes their muscles stiff and tight. Both have required many surgical procedures to lengthen their leg muscles and rotate their legs forward. Spencer, who can walk with the assistance of a walking stick and sometimes uses a wheelchair, is scheduled to undergo surgery in 2012 to straighten his left arm.
“We don’t dwell on the negatives,” says the boys’ mom, Peg. “Instead of focusing on the fact that one of them needs surgery, for example, we focus instead on what the surgery will enable them to do afterwards.”
The Chartier family has been very active in fundraising activities for Children’s and its new facility, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. In fact, the brothers have even taken a pre-opening tour of the 23-floor hospital. “It’ll be pretty cool,” says Corbin. “Each floor will be decorated differently, and all patient rooms will be private. It would be even cooler if they added a petting zoo for the younger kids, though.”
Darin says the family remains grateful to Children’s. “The hospital has done so much for our boys,” he says. “Without the care he received at Children’s, Jackson wouldn’t be able to run cross-country and Corbin wouldn’t be able to play soccer. And although he can’t compete on the playing field, without Children’s, Spencer wouldn’t be able to ride his bike.”
Adds Peg, “We have never put any restrictions on what they can achieve, and they’ve achieved so much so far. Whatever they end up doing in life, we just want them to follow their own paths and live life to the fullest.”
Story originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Heroes Update.