Teen Carries Brother for 40 Miles to Raise Cerebral Palsy Awareness

Hunter Gandee knew it would be tough to walk 40 miles with his 7-year-old brother Braden on his back. But the 14-year-old wanted to do what he dubbed the “Cerebral Palsy Swagger” to raise awareness about cerebral palsy and the difficulties his younger brother and others with the disorder face. As their Facebook page says, their goal is “To get the attention of the up and coming leaders, doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs and show them the face of Cerebral Palsy and the need for innovative ideas in mobility aides and medical procedures. ”

Hunter, a 155-lb wrestler, practiced for months by carrying around weights. Fifty pound brother Braden usually needs a walker, braces or a power chair to get around.

cerebral palsy posterStarting just over the state line in Bedford, OH Hunter carried Braden strapped to his back all the way to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

On Saturday, it was sunny, and Hunter had to deal with the heat. Then it became cool and rainy on Sunday, and Braden’s legs became irritated from rubbing up against Hunter. They considered stopping the walk, but a phone call to a friend who said a prayer for them, and repositioning Braden got them back on track:

“Honestly, yes, there was a point that we did consider stopping. Braden’s legs — the chafing was getting pretty bad. We did have to consider stopping. It was at about the 30-mile point.”

Afterwards the successful walk, Hunter told reporters:

“I’m more tired than I think I’ve ever been. My legs are pretty sore. But we pushed through it. And we’re here.”

“I can’t even describe to you how special (Braden) is to me. I can’t put it into words. He’s awesome. He’s always there for me. I really just wanted to give back to him in some way.”

In the spirit of the Cerebral Palsy Swagger, Celebrity Diagnosis hopes to now raise your awareness of Cerebral Palsy…

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles.

Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves.  It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements.  The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later.

There are several possible causes of the abnormal development or damage. People used to think that CP was mainly caused by lack of oxygen during the birth process. Now, scientists think that this causes only a small number of CP cases. The brain damage that leads to CP can happen before birth, during birth, within a month after birth, or during the first years of a child’s life, while the brain is still developing. CP related to brain damage that occurred before or during birth is called congenital CP, and accounts for 85%–90% of cases. In many cases, the specific cause is not known. A small percentage of CP is caused by brain damage that occurs more than 28 days after birth. This is called acquired CP, and usually is associated with an infection (such as meningitis) or head injury.

The symptoms of CP vary from person to person. A person with severe CP might need to use special equipment to be able to walk, or might not be able to walk at all and might need lifelong care. A person with mild CP, on the other hand, might walk a little awkwardly, but might not need any special help. CP does not get worse over time, though the exact symptoms can change over a person’s lifetime.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Doctors classify CP according to the main type of movement disorder involved. Depending on which areas of the brain are affected, one or more of the following movement disorders can occur:

  • Stiff muscles (spasticity)
  • Uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia)
  • Poor balance and coordination (ataxia)

There are four main types of CP:

1. Spastic Cerebral Palsy

The most common type of CP is spastic CP. Spastic CP affects about 80% of people with CP.

People with spastic CP have increased muscle tone. This means their muscles are stiff and, as a result, their movements can be awkward. Spastic CP usually is described by what parts of the body are affected:

  • Spastic diplegia/diparesis―In this type of CP, muscle stiffness is mainly in the legs, with the arms less affected or not affected at all. People with spastic diplegia might have difficulty walking because tight hip and leg muscles cause their legs to pull together, turn inward, and cross at the knees (also known as scissoring).
  • Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis―This type of CP affects only one side of a person’s body; usually the arm is more affected than the leg.
  • Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis―Spastic quadriplegia is the most severe form of spastic CP and affects all four limbs, the trunk, and the face. People with spastic quadriparesis usually cannot walk and often have other developmental disabilities such as intellectual disability; seizures; or problems with vision, hearing, or speech.


2. Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy (also includes athetoid, choreoathetoid, and dystonic cerebral palsies)

People with dyskinetic CP have problems controlling the movement of their hands, arms, feet, and legs, making it difficult to sit and walk. The movements are uncontrollable and can be slow and writhing or rapid and jerky. Sometimes the face and tongue are affected and the person has a hard time sucking, swallowing, and talking. A person with dyskinetic CP has muscle tone that can change (varying from too tight to too loose) not only from day to day, but even during a single day.

3. Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

People with ataxic CP have problems with balance and coordination. They might be unsteady when they walk. They might have a hard time with quick movements or movements that need a lot of control, like writing. They might have a hard time controlling their hands or arms when they reach for something.

4. Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Some people have symptoms of more than one type of CP. The most common type of mixed CP is spastic-dyskinetic CP.

What are the Early Signs of CP?

The signs of CP vary greatly because there are many different types and levels of disability. The main sign that a child might have CP is a delay reaching motor or movement milestones (such as rolling over, sitting, standing, or walking). Following are some other signs of possible CP. It is important to note that some children without CP also might have some of these signs.

In a Baby Younger Than 6 Months of Age

  • His head lags when you pick him up while he’s lying on his back
  • He feels stiff
  • He feels floppy
  • When held cradled in your arms, he seems to overextend his back and neck, constantly acting as if he is pushing away from you
  • When you pick him up, his legs get stiff and they cross or scissor

In a Baby Older Than 6 Months of Age

  • She doesn’t roll over in either direction
  • She cannot bring her hands together
  • She has difficulty bringing her hands to her mouth
  • She reaches out with only one hand while keeping the other  in a fist

In a Baby Older Than 10 Months of Age

  • He crawls in a lopsided manner, pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg
  • He scoots around on his buttocks or hops on his knees, but does not crawl on all fours

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs.

Treatments and Interventions

There is no cure for CP, but treatment can improve the lives of those who have the condition. It is important to begin a treatment program as early as possible.

After a CP diagnosis is made, a team of health professionals works with the child and family to develop a plan to help the child reach his or her full potential. Common treatments include medicines; surgery; braces; and physical, occupational, and speech therapy. No single treatment is the best one for all children with CP.

For more information , click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Sources: CDC, NINDS

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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