Four-year-old Madison Kreider likes to pretend she’s Luisa Madrigal, the character from Disney’s animated film “Encanto.” Unlike traditional Disney females, Luisa is known for her strong, muscular build.
“I think the Luisa character inspires Madison, and she overcompensates for her legs with a strong upper body,” father Matt Kreider said.
“She loves to do the bodybuilder double bicep pose,” mother Lauren Kreider said.
While Madison is like many kids her age, she faces extra challenges because of her diplegic spastic cerebral palsy diagnosis. The neurological disorder doesn’t affect her upper body, but causes extremely stiff muscles in the legs that make it difficult and awkward to walk.
Walking presents challenges, but Madison scampers up the rock wall with relative ease at her twice-weekly physical therapy sessions, which Lauren says are key. When Madison is home, she plays with her 6-year-old sister, Emma, a student at Centerville Elementary in Virginia Beach.
Madison was born full term, but a brain injury before or during birth caused cerebral palsy. She showed no symptoms at first, but then the Kreiders noticed delays in motor skills. After many tests and doctor appointments, they received the diagnosis.
“We’re trying to bring awareness to cerebral palsy, and an important part of that is getting parents to be on the lookout for certain symptoms,” Lauren said. “There is no cure, and no two cases of cerebral palsy are the same. But a prompt diagnosis is important, and if steps are taken early, it can lessen the toll on the body later.”
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Madison’s birthday is in March, which is also National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. To raise money and build awareness, the Kreiders organized a “Miles for Madison” walk March 25. About 100 people showed up, and the money raised went to fund research and help with Madison’s medical bills. The family also has a GoFundMe page.
“Though she is mobile without the walker, and overall considered mild on the cerebral palsy scale, Madison takes medications and faces daily struggles and countless doctor appointments, which she meets mostly with smiles,” Lauren said.
Madison recently went to Richmond to undergo selective dorsal rhizotomy, a neurosurgery where sensory nerves in the spinal cord that cause muscle tightness are cut. Recovery can take up to a full year, and the goal is to help diminish the pain and prevent future issues.
“She used to walk on her toes, but after the surgery she’s rebuilding her leg muscles to walk with a more typical gait,” Matt said.
Cerebral palsy is the one of most commonly diagnosed childhood motor disabilities in the U.S. It is estimated that over 760,000 people are affected by at least one symptom.
“We hope by sharing Madison’s story, we can help others feel less alone, normalize differences, and hope everyone will recognize the need for accessibility and show compassion to all,” Lauren said.
Eric Hodies, firstname.lastname@example.org