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Cerebral Palsy

Owen’s Cerebral Palsy Care in Greater Minnesota

Owen is standing in a gym and is proud of the medals he won.

Owen sees Gillette Children's cerebral palsy experts near his home in Greater Minnesota.

“Cerebral palsy is not a limitation. It does not define my son, Owen. It’s just a part of who he is,” says Kelly Sather.

Owen is a busy first grader from Fosston, Minnesota and his mom, Kelly, credits early intervention and the care he receives from Gillette Children’s as the keys to keeping her son happy and energetic.

Kelly is pleased Owen is active and is proud of the four medals he won at a track meet. Owen’s tried sled hockey and loves it. He’s also a big Minnesota Twins baseball fan.

On the recommendation of the Gillette therapeutic recreation team, Owen’s family recently purchased a used adaptive bike. “Thanks to this year’s mild Minnesota winter Owen has been able to ride around the neighborhood in February!” Kelly laughs.

When he’s not playing or watching sports Owen is engaged in his schoolwork. He’s a championship speller and a strong student.

“Owen is just one of the strongest and bravest kids I’ve ever met,” proud mom Kelly boasts.

Owen and his family at Target Field to watch a Minnesota Twins baseball game.

Owen and his family are fans of Minnesota Twins baseball.

A difficult start to life

Owen’s athletic and academic success was not always guaranteed. Kelly says her 2016 pregnancy was “high risk” and doctors recommended she travel from Fosston to Fargo, North Dakota to give birth.

“Owen was born as a preemie at just 30 weeks,” Kelly says. “He weighed just 1 pound 14 ounces!” Owen spent the first 7 weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “It was a scary, stressful time,” Kelly recalls.

Once he was strong enough to go home to Fosston, Owen was monitored closely by his pediatrician and various doctors in his area. When he was just over a year old his doctors referred him to the experts at Gillette.

“Our family really didn’t know about Gillette until our doctors made the referral,” Kelly says.

A cerebral palsy diagnosis and a plan

The Sather family traveled about 5 hours south for their first meeting at the Gillette main campus in St. Paul.

Owen was officially diagnosed with cerebral palsy during that first appointment. “Right away the Gillette doctors started working on a plan for Owen,” Kelly says. “We felt reassured and knew Owen was working with a strong team.”

Andrea Paulson, MD, drives hundreds of miles each month to see Gillette Children's patients throughout Greater Minnesota. She is standing near a Gillette-branded car.

Andrea Paulson, MD, drives hundreds of miles each month to see Gillette Children's patients throughout Greater Minnesota.

CP care closer to home

When Owen was just over 3-years-old he began to see Gillette physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, Andrea Paulson, MD, at the Gillette Brainerd Clinic. Dr. Paulson is Gillette’s medical director for Greater Minnesota. She drives thousands of miles per month to provide care for patients.

Gillette is committed to serving Greater Minnesota and has clinics throughout the state in locations such as Alexandria, Baxter, Bemidji, Burnsville, Duluth, Mankato, Maple Grove, St. Cloud and Willmar. Gillette also provides access to expert physicians and providers through virtual care appointments.

Dr. Paulson is proud of Gillette’s commitment to care for all patients and says the goal is to help provide care close to home, when possible. 

"I want to meet patients where they are at and to help minimize their travel so the family can be a family," Dr. Paulson says. "I want the kids to be able to attend school, parents can go to work, and they can spend their time doing something fun together instead of traveling for medical care."

Surgery and therapy for Owen

“We love Dr. Paulson.” Kelly says.

The Sather’s appreciate that Owen can see a Gillette specialist closer to home. The Gillette Brainerd Clinic is about two hours away from Fosston compared to the five-hour drive to St. Paul.

“One of the first things Dr. Paulson recommended for Owen was selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery,” Kelly recalls.

Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery treats muscle spasticity caused by abnormal communication among the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. The best candidates for SDR surgery typically have spastic diplegic cerebral palsy that affects the legs more than the arms. This surgery is irreversible and is typically done when a child is 4 to 7 years old.

“It was hard when Dr. Paulson told us the SDR surgery would mean a six-week inpatient stay at the Gillette hospital in St. Paul,” Kelly says.

Kelly and her husband, Nick, both work full-time and have a teenage son to care for. “It took some juggling and help from friends and family to make things work,” Kelly says.

Successful SDR surgery for Owen

Owen’s SDR surgery was successful, and his family noticed improvements to his walking and muscle control. He still receives physical (PT) and occupational (OT) therapy and is monitored by his Gillette care team. Typically, it takes about a year for a child to fully recover from SDR surgery.

Owen wears ankle-foot orthosis (AFOs) crafted by the Gillette orthotics prosthetics and seating (OPS) team. He uses a walker to mobilize. Kelly says his walker and AFOs are not an issue with his classmates. “They don’t really even notice it or comment on it,” she says.

We feel like family at Gillette

“I really want families who have a child diagnosed with CP or are wondering if their child has CP to know Gillette is amazing,” Kelly says. “I’m thankful we got an early CP diagnosis for Owen because of Gillette. We didn’t need to wait to begin a treatment plan. These early interventions made life better for our son.”  

Kelly adds, “Gillette has done wonderful things for our family. We feel like family every time we walk into the facility.”

Kelly is grateful Gillette continues to advocate for inclusive playgrounds and accessibility for all children. “We appreciate how Gillette wants all children to have access to excellent care—no matter where they live.”