September is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. This is a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination and/or other disabilities and is typically caused before birth. To bring awareness to the cause, the president of the Cerebral Palsy Society of Trinidad and Tobago Mr Phillip Meteivier, had a chat with us to give us some more information on Cerebral Palsy (CP) and give us some real life stories as parents of children with CP.
What is this disease and how does someone on the inside describe it? “It's not a disease - it's not hereditary and it's not progressive. It's not a disease in the sense that it can be developed," Meteivier explained. "When you have it, you are born with it. It's not something that can be progressive as it cannot get worse, but through physical and occupational therapy, these people can achieve so much.” There are many different stages when looking at the effects that CP can have on persons throughout their life. Research shows that there are four major types of cerebral palsy, spastic, athetoid, ataxic and mixed type.
Spastic is the most common type of cerebral palsy, accounting for 70 to 80 percent of the studies worldwide. People with this type usually experience spastic of jerky muscles, which is caused by damage to the brain's motor cortex. Common signs for this type of CP are awkward reflexes, stiffness on one part of the body, contractures and an abnormal gait. Gait abnormality can be classified as a deviation from normal walking.
Ataxic CP is a type that causes problems with balance and coordination and makes up a small percentage of the worldwide statistic. People with this case usually have issues with any type of voluntary movement. Some common symptoms are difficulty speaking, problems with depth perception, shakiness and tremors.
Athetoid CP amounts for only 10 percent of the cases worldwide and is characterized by a fluctuation in muscle tone. The main trait of this type of CP is involuntary movement in the face torso and limbs. Some other common symptoms are a stiff or rigid body, floppiness in the limbs, problems with posture and trouble feeding.
Mixed CP speaks for itself; it's when damage to the developing brain is not necessarily confined to one location in the brain. This means it is more than possible for a child with CP to develop the characteristics of multiple types of brain injuries. In this case, children born with mixed CP are usually dealing with two or more different classifications of the disease, all at once.
In Trinidad and Tobago, there are more families than we know, who have had a child diagnosed with CP. The CP Society of Trinidad and Tobago strives to provide support for many of these families who have no idea what direction to go in. Mr. Meteivier and another parent involved in the association Ruheni Mootilal gave us some insight on what it's like to be parents of children living with CP.
Meteivier is the father of a 25-year-old son living with CP. Having the support of another parent for quite some time, his family faced tough times quite a while back that left him to do this alone. “My son's mom died about eight years ago and I am a single parent being assisted by another parent whose child also has CP,” he said. And without the help, he would not have been able to take the time off to do this interview. “It's a 24/7 job. The government took away my stipend, which led me to have to resign from my job as my son needs full time care. It's a heart-rending situation to hear the stories of some of these parents. And it's the poorer population that suffers the most.”
The CP Society of Trinidad and Tobago is having a fundraising cricket competition at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba on the 29th of September. Gates are opening at 4 pm and the event will start around 6 pm. Tickets can be purchased through the CP Society.