Cora Gryskiewicz is a spunky, high-energy toddler who loves to “help” her mother, Paula Gryskiewicz, with anything and everything she can. “Cora is my little turkey,” says Paula, lovingly calling Cora by her favorite nickname. “She is always on the go!”
Indeed, Cora’s busy schedule rivals that of most adults. That’s because, along with visits to her neighborhood park and playtime with mommy, Cora receives physical therapy three times per week at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, where she also sees physicians for help managing a complex disability called spina bifida. Paula discovered Cora would have the condition, which occurs when the spine develops abnormally, when she was just 20 weeks pregnant. It causes complications such as, in Cora’s case, hydrocephalus (fluidon the brain), clubfeet, and lower extremity issues.
When Cora was less than a day old, Dr. Patrick Graupman, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Gillette, performed surgery to close the opening in Cora’s back caused by the condition. Other major surgeries have followed—including an orthopedic procedure next week—which, along with regular physical therapy at Gillette’s Burnsville Clinic, have enabled Cora to walk with assistance of forearm crutches, which she calls her “sticks.” Walking is an especially significant achievement because Cora has very limited feeling in her feet and lower legs.
Paula, who enrolled Cora in physical therapy at Gillette when she was just 4 months old, says that early intervention has been vital to Cora’s independence today. She also credits Cora’s Gillette therapists, PT Stephanie Zigan and PT assistant Amanda Larson, with enabling her to succeed. “I firmly believe that Cora is as mobile as she is today because Stephanie pushes her,” says Paula. “She uses positive reinforcement that makes Cora WANT to work hard!”
“Gillette is like a second family to us,” concludes Paula. “Everyone there is wonderful. They recognize Cora and greet her by name. I love that!”