What is Cerebral Palsy?

Definition:

Cerebral palsy, though commonly associated with impairment of motor function, is actually caused by brain damage that occurs while a child’s brain is still in its developing stages – before birth, during birth, or directly after birth. Due to this brain damage, those who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy have difficulty with body movement, muscle coordination, muscle tone, muscle control, reflex, balance, posture, and motor skill functions (fine, gross, and oral).

Alan Rasof

Cause:

Each individual’s case of cerebral palsy damage due to the amount of brain damage that occurs, the time the brain damage occurs during a certain developmental phase in the brain, and the type of brain damage that occurs. According to Cerebralpalsy.org, the type of brain damage that causes cerebral palsy can be one (or more) of the following:

  1. Prenatal disturbance of brain cell migration – genetic and environmental factors disturb brain cell migration as cells move to their appropriate location during brain development.
  2. Prenatal poor myelination (insulation) of developing nerve cell fibers – brain function is impeded when poor myelin provides an inadequate protective covering over nerve cells that aid in the transmission.
  3. Perinatal brain cell death – events in the birthing process that rupture blood vessels or starve oxygen to the brain.
  4. Postnatal non-functional or inappropriate connections (synapses) between brain cells – trauma, infections, and asphyxia that damage connections developed in the brain.

Alan Rasof Pregnant-Woman

History:

Alan Rasof amigo mgaCerebral palsy was pioneered by Dr. William John Little in the mid 1800s, who used his own childhood disability as motivation for this discovery. In addition, Sir William Osler, an important figure in modern medicine, wrote the first book pertaining to cerebral palsy to help spread awareness. He came up with the idea that the disability was a result from abnormal fetal development – far before the medical field agreed with his concept.

According to Cerebralpalsy.org, “At different times, the U.S. government passed crucial legislation to modernize care and further rights of individuals with a disability. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, which promoted community-based care as an alternative to institutionalization,” (History of Cerebral Palsy).

Medicine has played a large role in understanding cerebral palsy, along with diagnosing it. Technological advancements in medicine have aided those who have cerebral palsy, redefining what it means to live with a disability. In addition, blood typing medicine, similar to which is used to cure jaundice, and vaccine developments such as rubella, have helped, and continue to help, to prevent the development of cerebral palsy.

In Children:

Many times, signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy are not apparent at birth, but when it comes to development and growth milestones, parents will likely notice a delay unusual from normal patterns. Today, about the amount of children with cerebral palsy ranges from about 2.3% to 3.6% out of 1,000 children.

Please stay tuned for the next blog post to find out about the preventative measures for cerebral palsy.

The Susan G. Komen Global Movement

Alan Rasof breast cancer awarenessThe Susan G. Komen Foundation began in 1980, after Nancy Brinker made a promise to her sister, Susan, who was dying from breast cancer. This one promise was that Nancy would do everything she could to end breast cancer for good. 30 years later, this promise has turned into one of the world’s biggest philanthropic accomplishments that has impacted millions of lives.

Nancy began the foundation with just $200 and a list of donor names. Now, the organization has invested in over $2.6 billion in research, community outreach, health advocacy, and various programs that span across more than 30 countries. Breast cancer death rates have decreased by 34% since the foundation’s start.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has one of the world’s largest network of breast cancer survivors and activists. When Suzy was diagnosed in 1977, breast cancer was not a subject people openly spoke about – women felt like they were alone. But now, after tremendous efforts in the last 30 since the founding of the organization, women know they are not alone. There is now a global community made up of millions of people who are not afraid to share their stories and increase awareness of the disease so that it can one day be a part of the past and not a reality.

Alan Rasof nancy-brinker-1According to the official website for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and Chair of Global Strategy, has spoken about the rapid growth of the foundation and its effects on patients diagnosed with breast cancer. She writes:

“We have fought for access to care for the poor and uninsured; funded the clinics that educate, screen and treat people with breast cancer; paid for the groceries, transportation, wigs, prosthetics and insurance co-pays to help women face breast cancer with dignity and hope. We are doing this in more than 30 countries around the world, with more to come. We have invested more than $1.7 billion to make these programs possible,” (ww5.komen.org).

The efforts of all of those involved with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation have gone above and beyond any expectation that Nancy first had when she began the organization.

With continued efforts, this Foundation will flourish among the many profitable nonprofits and help those diagnosed with breast cancer, never ceasing to set out what they originally planned to do – find a cure.

About the March of Dimes

The March of Dimes was originally founded by President Franklin Roosevelt after his personal struggle with polio that led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, better known as the March of Dimes. The foundation’s original mission was to establish a polio patient aid program that funded research for vaccines, which effectively ended the polio epidemic in the U.S.

Alan Rasof History_01 of March of Dimes

The name “March of Dimes” was derived from the contemporary radio and newsreel series called The March of Time, which was created by Eddie Cantor as a nationwide fundraising campaign for polio in the week before President Roosevelt’s birthday in January of 1938. During the campaign, pins were sold for ten cents each and thousands of citizens mailed cards and letters to the White House that contained dimes in them to show their support for President Roosevelt and their motivation to fight against polio. Over $85,000 was raised by the end of the week-long campaign – a truly revolutionary fundraiser.

Since the original mission has been accomplished, the March of Dimes now focuses on helping moms have full-term pregnancies and researching problems that threaten the health of babies, ultimately reducing birth defects and infant mortality. According to their website, the March of Dimes “has led the way to discover the genetic causes of birth defects, to promote newborn screening, and to educate medical professionals and the public about best practices for healthy pregnancy,” (Preventing Birth Defects). Recently, the organization has promoted a Folic Acid Campaign to aid with a significant reduction in the number of neural tube defects.

Alan Rasof logo of March of Dimes

The March of Dimes has been internationally recognized for its Prematurity Campaign that began in 2003, which raises awareness and helps find various causes of premature babies. The nonprofit has chapters and volunteers working in every state across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico that assess local child and maternal health needs and help plan, fund, and carry-out community events that aim to improve the health of mothers and their children. To learn more about the many ways the March of Dimes helps mothers with their pregnancies in local communities across the globe, check out their website here.