Written by Joy Angelica Subido Tuesday, 05 February 2008 18:03Forty-year-old Gerardo “Gerry” Mariano remembers when he acquired cerebral palsy. At two-and-a-half years old, he fell out the window of his family’s nipa hut home and sustained a brain injury. Since then, the condition has hindered his body movements. “I was called the drunken dancer; walking with crutches and steel braces,” he relates. Still, he remains unfazed by the physical difficulties that he has to contend with. As administrative financial officer of a non-government institution, he lives a productive life and is married to Marlene who is also afflicted with the same developmental disability. They are doting parents to a bright, normally-abled child and are living proof that with the right mindset, one can overcome the obstacles brought about by cerebral palsy. The couple’s attitude and determination to live a normal life is imbued with such an inspiring quality, in fact, that people have taken notice. Their story was once portrayed in a popular television show.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a chronic condition affecting body movements and muscle coordination. “CP is not a disease. It is neither progressive nor communicable,” clarifies developmental pediatrician Dr. Francis Dimalanta of the Philippine Cerebral Palsy Inc. (PCPI). The condition results from injury to the brain, and depending on which areas have been damaged, muscle tightness or spasm, involuntary movement and disturbance in gait and mobility can occur. Other effects of CP are abnormal sensation and perception, sight, hearing or speech impairment, seizures, autism, and mental retardation.
Damage to the brain tissue may occur before, during or after birth. Genetic diseases and embryologic abnormalities may result in insufficient oxygen reaching the fetus, thereby resulting in CP. Additionally, infections during pregnancy, premature birth, asphyxia or lack of oxygen during labor and delivery, blood diseases, severe jaundice and other birth defects may cause CP. And thus, a pregnant woman can effectively reduce her child’s CP risk by seeking regular pre-natal care and avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs.In older individuals, however, CP is most likely caused by head injuries.
Since damage to the brain is permanent, CP is a lifelong disability — neither completely reversible nor curable. Nevertheless, a program of education, therapy, and applied technology can be taken to help persons with CP lead productive lives. Although mental and thought processes are not always affected and the patient’s IQ may be normal or above normal, a person with CP is “trapped” in a disabled body. Still, damage to the brain is not progressive in nature and the condition will not worsen.
With no government program in the Philippines that is solely dedicated to the prevention and treatment of CP, the non- stock, non-profit foundation Philippine Cerebral Palsy Inc. has devoted itself to the treatment and alleviation of the condition. A multi-disciplinary team of doctors, therapists, educators, social workers, parents, and caregivers, pools their resources to help each child with CP reach his full potential.There are no quick fixes or standard programs. Since the special needs of each child will inevitably vary, individualized treatment plans can be devised only after careful assessment. Certainly, considerable resources need to be expended to be able to help all the children who are referred and brought to PCPI.
50 Years of Hope, a book co-authored by Dr. Francis Xavier Dimalanta and Mita Angela Dimalanta, creates awareness for cerebral palsy. By chronicling the stories of 10 people with CP who have surmounted the trials brought about by their condition, the book is testament to the power of determination and optimism. In addition, proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit PCPI and will be used by the foundation for continuing medical services, physical, occupational and speech therapy, special education, art, music, and computer lessons.
“There must be a special reason why I have CP,” says Nina Lourdes Gongon Lim, an accountant who was diagnosed with CP when she was three years old. “Maybe I wouldn’t have the fighting spirit to survive challenges that come my way if I didn’t have CP. We make the most of what is given to us. We find ways to conquer the challenges before us.”
source: Philippine Star