Nathan suffered a stroke at birth, resulting in cerebral palsy that causes weakness on the right side of his body (hemiparesis). He’s been coming to the Alberta Children’s Hospital since he was little for physio and occupational therapy as well as treatment and follow-up through a number of clinics, including orthopedics, cardiology, vision, dental and sleep. When he was six, Nathan underwent a procedure with Dr. Simon Goldstein where his leg was injected with Botox and then casted to try and stretch his heel cord and improve his mobility on that side.

Over the last several years, Nathan has had the opportunity to participate in amazing programming, camps and research projects through the hospital. Last summer, he took part in SPORT Camp, which is for kids who have suffered a stroke. In this camp, Nathan underwent intensive, one-on-one occupational therapy as well as constraint therapy, which involved having a cast on his non-affected arm. Constraint therapy made Nathan use his affected arm with the intent of strengthening it, improving motor skills and encouraging him to involve it in day-to-day activities. Nathan’s dad, Todd, says he noticed an increase in Nathan’s willingness to include his affected arm in tasks following the camp. To make it fun and perhaps a little less frustrating, participants got to play sports and video games and work on their cooking skills, among other activities. The camp is also a research project to test the effects of non-invasive brain stimulation as a potential therapy for kids with CP. This was really exciting for Nathan’s family, who place great value in research and were happy his involvement could help lead to even better treatments for kids like him.

Nathan has also been able to take part in Camp Independence through the Vi Riddell Children’s Pain and Rehabilitation Centre at the hospital. This camp, for teenagers with disabilities or chronic conditions, teaches life skills that will help them work toward a new level of independence. Among the things participants learn are grocery shopping, cooking skills, using public transit to get around, applying for jobs and managing their own healthcare. Todd says Nathan was especially happy with his ability to use public transportation after the camp. As a dad, he feels the program was so useful that “every single young person should have a chance to go.”

These opportunities, along with the expertise of their hospital teams, the connections made and the resources available have made the Brand family feel incredibly supported through their journey. “The Alberta Children’s Hospital has been a really important emotional and strengthening support for us, not just a physical support,” says Todd.

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