The invitations have been delivered, the cake ordered, the favors purchased. But as Caroline Estrada prepares for her daughter Alexandra’s 8th birthday party, she can’t help but worry about the approaching celebration. 

Three months earlier, Alexandra began attending a new school after the family relocated to the East Coast. School hadn’t been in session a week when Estrada received a surprising report from Alexandra’s teacher.

“Parents have started asking what my daughter has,” Estrada shared on Facebook’s Cerebral Palsy Resource Group, which is managed by Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. “I told the teacher to tell other parents that she has cerebral palsy, but she is just like the other kids.”

Estrada describes Alexandra as driven and motivated. “She told me she wants to run a marathon. We don’t put limits on what she wants to do.” As Alexandra grew, her symptoms worsened, however. So Estrada started searching for new treatment options. Research led her to Gillette, where the hospital’s integrated care model “sold us,” says Estrada.

In May 2015, Alexandra had a selective dorsal rhizotomy, a neurosurgery that permanently reduces muscle tightness.

“At the hospital, Alexandra didn’t like that people were talking about cerebral palsy,” Estrada remembers. “She didn’t want to have it and didn’t want to be different.”

Meetings with a Gillette psychologist helped change Alexandra’s perception of her disability. Now, she and her mom are shifting others’ perceptions, too. After Estrada’s Facebook post, the outpouring of support she received inspired her to become an overnight author.

Estrada’s “book”—a typed document with photos—explains why Alexandra uses leg braces and a wheelchair, but spends the most time highlighting commonalities. The book ends with a simple wish: “I hope we can be friends.”

Alexandra’s wish came true. A dozen girls attended her 8th birthday party. “I forget that other people don’t see Alexandra the way I see her,” Estrada says. “This is our opportunity to help others learn.”

Read more inspiring stories like Alexandra's in the 2015 Gillette Annual Report!

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