At first glance, 12-year-old Ryan Smith of Southington looks like your typical kid, and he certainly is. However, his journey hasn’t always been easy.
“It’s like every week he’s getting more and more independent. He’s got to build that confidence,” said Amber Smith, Ryan’s mother.
Her son was just 18 months old when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It’s a disorder that affects muscle control and coordination. Often, it’s the result of a brain injury before, during or after birth. In Ryan’s case, it affected his lower extremities. His parents knew something was wrong because Ryan was walking on his toes. His speech was also delayed.
“We were very proactive by just seeking out therapies and just doing what the doctors were saying at the time,” said Smith.
Over the years, Ryan developed a great deal of tightness in his legs. His heels would not stay flat on the ground, which made it difficult walking. He had to wear braces to try to keep his feet in place, but as he got older, Ryan developed discomfort and sores.
“He did his best, but at times, it was very challenging,” said Smith. “You know, he fatigues.”
The Smiths looked into surgery in Connecticut and Boston, but they didn’t agree with the approach doctors wanted to take and the impact it would have on Ryan. That’s when the family was directed to a doctor in New Jersey and, eventually, Texas. So, they flew south in December for the procedure known as SPML.
“And it stands for selective percutaneous myofascial lengthening,” Smith explained.
Before the procedure, Ryan was walking on his toes, unstable at times. It’s been three months since his surgery and his feet are now flat on the ground, making it easier for him to walk.
“Way more easier to, like, walk and stuff,” said Ryan.
The results of the procedure were even noticeable the day of the surgery.
“He laid his legs out on the bed and they were completely flat and he was able to move them and he says, ‘my legs are flat, mom,'” said Smith. “He started crying and we all started crying because that was a big deal.”
Ryan is learning how to walk again, building strength and muscle one day at a time. He uses a treadmill and bike daily as part of his therapy. He also gets therapy outside the home. He’s also able to dance now, something he really couldn’t do before, and he incorporates it with his daily workout routine. Next month, he’ll also get back to quarter midget racing, which is a big passion of his. He also has other plans.
“I really want to invite some of my friends over my house, play football, run around,” said Ryan.
The Smiths say they wouldn’t have been able to go through all of this without the support of their extended family. They hope the procedure can give another family a new lease on life just like it has for Ryan.
“I just feel like there’s something always better out there, you know?” said Smith. “As long as you keep digging deep and advocating. We want other families to reap the benefits of this as well.”
If you would like more information about the SPML procedure, you can email Amber Smith at email@example.com.