Everyone knows at least one iconic duo. There are Batman and Robin, Mario and Luigi, Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, and by the time you’re done reading, you’ll add another to the list: Josh and Tyler Lindgren.
Josh and Tyler, age 15 and 12, are happy-go-lucky, friendly kids. They like what most kids like. They love baseball, they love their video games and they love being around people. They're so alike in everything they do that it’s barely a surprise to learn that they’re not just brothers—they’re best friends.
Their close relationship is reinforced by building endless towns in Minecraft and watching every televised Twins game, but it’s also founded in a shared diagnosis of cerebral palsy.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Dawn Lindgren, Josh and Tyler’s mom, has a mind like a steel trap, recalling endless dates and medical terminology with ease. “It’s crazy how all this started. I had a normal delivery with Josh, but by the time he was a few months old, he wasn’t reaching normal milestones for a newborn like turning or rolling onto his belly,” she remembers.
Dawn and her husband, David, brought up their concerns at a routine check-up with their pediatrician, who immediately began setting up appointments with specialists for testing. “From there, it was a whirlwind. After seeing a variety of specialists, they could only deduce that he had hypotonia, or low muscle tone,” Dawn says. Josh promptly began physical therapy to address the issue.
It seemed Josh was making progress in therapy, but there were still unanswered questions. “It wasn’t until Josh was 2 years old that a neurologist suggested he may have cerebral palsy, Dawn says. “He followed up his diagnosis quickly with ‘He may never be able to walk’. So you can imagine how that felt.”
Left: Tyler (4) & Joshua (7) on Easter
Right: Tyler (4) & Joshua (7) at Walk On Therapeutic Riding in River Falls, WI
Soon after, one of Josh’s physical therapists recommended that Dawn and David contact Marshall Taniguchi, MD, a pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Dr. Taniguchi brought much-needed confidence and calm to Josh’s parents. “He assured us that walking was not at all out of the question for Josh. We wanted him to receive whatever treatments he needed to reach his greatest potential,” Dawn remembers.
Around this time, Dawn gave birth to Tyler, who, at 6 months, began showing the same delays as his older brother. Dawn and David recognized the signs right away and began a similar course of treatment for Tyler at Gillette.
“There’s Always Something”
The Lindgrens were no strangers to Gillette before meeting Dr. Taniguchi—it’s where both Joshua and Tyler were treated by Robert Wood, MD, for torticollis and plagiocephaly as babies. It’s also where they would go on to meet several other Gillette physicians including Kevin Sheridan, MD, who works with Josh and Tyler on their growth hormone regimen and Josh’s spine surgeon/hero, Tenner Guillaume, MD.
“It’s funny because we got to attend Gillette’s Mauer and Friends Kids Classic last year,” Dawn says, “There they were, standing on Target Field surrounded by athletes they’ve watched on TV their entire lives, but their favorite part was seeing Dr. Guillaume. Seeing him outside of a Gillette appointment was the highlight of their summer.”
Left: Tyler (10) & Joshua (12) with Brian Dozier on Target Field during Hope Week in 2015
Right: Dawn, Tyler (12), Joe Mauer, Joshua (14) & David at the Mauer and Friend's Kids Classic in 2017
It was a long road to meeting Dr. Guillaume, though. Last year, Dawn became concerned about Josh’s back. After a tethered spinal cord release surgery, it seemed his spine was more crooked than ever. After talking to Missy Hayward, a nurse to Dr. Sheridan, about her concerns, the Lindgrens scheduled X-rays for Josh's back.
After getting the X-ray results, Dawn contacted Missy again. “I told her, ‘Missy, we got the X-ray, and it looks worse. Can you see if Dr. Guillaume is able to look at this? She told me, ‘Dawn, there's already a team of doctors looking at your son's back.’ I was blown away by that. I just felt so reassured...everything that needed to be done was already in motion,” Dawn says.
The spine fusion surgery was intense. Josh’s back, which started with a 47-degree curve, had ricocheted to a 74-degree curve after the tethered cord release surgery and was corrected to an amazing 10 degrees. Now, more than one year after surgery and multiple check-ups from Dr. Guillaume, Josh is doing great. He says he feels “so much better” doing his everyday activities and Tyler is overjoyed to have his big brother back and ready for action.
Dr. Tenner Guillaume & Joshua on discharge from his spinal fusion at Gillette in 2017
A Moment of Calm
Considering how closely Tyler follows in Josh’s medical footsteps, Dawn isn’t relaxing quite yet. “In a year we just have another follow-up for Josh’s spine surgery, but I'm watching Tyler's back like a hawk. It’s always something with these two.”
For now, their “somethings” include adaptive dance classes at Woodbury Dance Center, playing on the Thunderbolts softball team for the first time, ringing in their eighth year on the Miracle League team and, of course, playing video games. Josh is looking forward to his dream job—working at Target with his brother.
Joshua (left) & Tyler (right) on their first day of school in Fall 2017
Health-wise, both Josh and Tyler are on growth hormones due to a hormone deficiency. While the growth hormones make them taller, the better benefits are strengthening their internal organs, muscle growth and stamina. But the more active they get playing softball, dancing and going to school, the more they both complain about ankle pain. Dawn certainly wouldn’t have guessed 10 years ago, when she was worried about her sons walking at all, that her new worries would be their ankle pain as they run the bases and wear out their dancing shoes.
“There’s so much to deal with day-to-day, it’s hard to think about their future sometimes. They both have cognitive delays, speech impediments, fine motor issues…but every once in a while there’s a moment of calm,” Dawn says. “Tyler has told me a few times, ‘Don’t worry, mom. I’ll take good care of Josh one day.’ And I hope he can. Because they also understand each other in a way that no one else does.”
One thing is for certain, no matter what the future brings, they won’t be tackling it alone.