“We support a very fragile, developing brain in an environment that it’s not meant to be in,” says Cheryl, a physical therapist at Lurie Children’s.
Born at 25 weeks and 6 days, weighing just 1 pound and 15 ounces, that support has been especially impactful for Palmer, now 4 months old.
Shortly after birth, Palmer was transported to Lurie Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where she began receiving interventional services such as physical and occupational therapy. “The role of a physical therapist is to support the development of an infant or child and help them thrive,” said Cheryl. “In young babies such as Palmer, it’s important not to cause stress but to encourage movement, challenge them against gravity and help them become more aware of the space around them.”
As one of the largest, well-trained and experienced physical therapy teams in a freestanding children’s hospital in the Midwest, our physical therapists evaluate and treat premature babies, full-term infants, young children, pre-teens and teens having health issues associated with motor development and movement dysfunction due to disease or injury.
Physical therapy for a premature infant depends widely on each baby’s condition, but for Palmer, Lurie Children’s physical therapy team began therapy while she was intubated moving her arms and legs, then sitting her up in a baby chair, kangaroo care and later tummy time on a floor mat.
“None of this experience was expected for us. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a preemie would receive services such as physical therapy that Palmer has received and thrived from,” said Lauren, Palmer’s mom. “It’s been so comforting to see people fighting for her and getting what she needs every second of every day.”
The strides Palmer has made over the last three months have been positive and encouraging. Her mom and dad Joe share that she attempts to hold her head up, kicks and moves her arms, wants her tummy time and is aware and attentive. “When we look at her now, she looks like a thriving newborn baby,” said Lauren. “One of our neonatologists shared with us that his role is to take care of the logistics but it’s our therapy teams that help babies reach their milestones developmentally.”
Recently, after more than 100 days in the NICU, Palmer went home and met her proud big brother Jaxson for the first time. Despite all the complications she endured at birth, her parents share that she is thriving and meeting milestones appropriate for her gestational age.
Palmer will continue to receive therapy services at Lurie Children’s Outpatient Center at New Lenox and be seen in our NICU Follow-up Clinic. Her mom Lauren says, “We are so thankful for all the support we have received. Great things are happening for Palmer and we are literally seeing a miracle before our eyes.”