Like any young child, Stanley Stevens was a curious kid. So in July 2011 when he saw a raft floating in the inflatable pool in his backyard, he tried reaching for it. That’s when Stanley’s grandmother noticed she hadn’t seen Stanley for several minutes. When she went looking for him, she found Stanley floating in the pool—he wasn’t breathing. Stanley’s grandmother called for his mother, Mary, who dialed 911 as quickly as her fingers could. An ambulance whisked him to Children’s Hospital of Illinois, where he was placed on a ventilator to keep him alive.
Stanley was diagnosed with global hypoxic brain injury, which occurs when there’s not enough oxygen reaching the brain. Oxygen helps keep brain cells alive—without enough of it, they begin to die. As a result, Stanley lost many of the skills he had developed before the accident. Stanley had been in a coma since the accident, but the next morning he opened his eyes and soon no longer needed the ventilator to breathe. While in the hospital, Karen Lee, occupational therapist at Children’s Hospital, began working with him. “After the accident, he’d lost many skills, such as the ability to sit up on his own, hold his head up, reach for objects, and play with them,” Lee says. “When working with kids who experience an injury and loss of skills like Stanley did, we focus the therapy on helping them regain those skills. “Although there are times when children won’t fully regain their skills, we work to help them reach their maximum potential.” Stanley remained in the hospital for three months. Once he returned home, he and his family began attending outpatient rehabilitation sessions twice a week at Children’s Hospital of Illinois.
Lee and other experts on Stanley’s rehab team—including a speech therapist and physical therapist—work closely with Stanley, his family, and each other. “I only see Stanley for one hour per week,” Lee says. “So it’s important to
have his family there to learn the skills I’m working on with Stanley so they can continue practicing at home. That’s
what’s helped Stanley progress so much—his family’s active role.” Today, Stanley’s skills continue to improve. “At times his progress can seem slow and then all of a sudden he’ll learn a whole bunch of new things,” Mary says. “Lately he’s starting to walk more and climb stairs. We feel fortunate for the care he’s received and the improvements he’s made. Stanley loves going to see his therapists each week.”
The Developmental Rehabilitation program at Children’s Hospital, which has worked with Stanley throughout his recovery, includes a team of physical, occupational, and speech therapists. The team treats a wide range of
challenges, including those from brain injury; injury at or before birth; premature birth; neurological issues; developmental delays; trouble eating or speaking; or bone, muscle, or balance issues. “When you think of occupational therapy, you think of skills people need to have for their job,” Lee says. “A child’s job is being able to play and perform some self-care skills. We look at each child and ask, ‘What does the child need or want to do, and how can we help him or her get there?’”