For the first several months of Zach's life, his parents and pediatrician were not sure what to make of his challenges. At 5 weeks, he did not have a reaction to stimulus such as hands clapping in front of him. At 5 months old, he was unable to sit up. In his car seat, his head lay to one side instead of being held straight. At 9 months old, he was still not sitting up and had lost his appetite. Zach's pediatrician referred him to Children's Hospital Colorado.
At Children’s Colorado, child specialists observed other things that Zach’s parents had not previously noticed. His shoulders were not symmetrical and his fists were closed while running. They watched him struggle up the ladder on a play structure and continue to fall, but get back up and keep trying. These observations led to the diagnosis of left hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Zach’s mom felt that even though he was at his worst, there was hope for a positive outcome.
“I will never forget that first visit in the Orthopedics Department. Dr. Frank Chang came in and began playing with Zach immediately. He had a ball that lit up while bouncing that Zach would chase. Dr. Chang put stamps on his forehead and arms and Zach loved him. The bond had begun,” said TR, Zach’s mom.
Through coordinated care, Zach began receiving extensive treatment. He received physical and occupational therapy for his feeding issues, physical capabilities and seizures. Through careful care and medication, Zach’s seizures were controlled, and he began to spend a lot of time at the Center for Gait and Movement Analysis working on his walk. He gained weight, and by his early childhood, was fitting in with his peers.
At 6 years old, Zach became interested in skiing and joined the Hospital Sports Program at Children’s Colorado.
“When he arrived home after that first day of skiing he was so worn out that he was asleep on the bus. But he woke up to tell us that he met some new friends and wanted to go again,” TR said.
Volunteers fit ski equipment to Zach’s body that would maximize his potential to learn a new sport. He enjoyed skiing but started to notice the snowboarders in the rail park. Learning to snowboard became his new goal.
“The volunteers loved Zach and encouraged him. They also encouraged the kids to get to know each other through playing games and sharing meals. Zach’s confidence increased and his snowboarding skills were really developing,” TR said.
Zach eventually began to ride competitively and won the 2012 Wells Fargo Ski Cup National Adaptive Race in Winter Park. Now he has a new goal - to someday train others and give them the opportunity to enjoy sports in an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement.
“I am confident that Zach has the outgoing, encouraging, fun and positive personality he has today because of his early start at Children’s Colorado,” TR said. “From the very beginning he was encouraged and motivated.”