When Sue Boh lmann's two-year-old son Sam woke from his nap, his left arm didn't move and his walk was "off." Sue brought him to the emergency room right away. A CT scan and several other tests later, Sue received news no mom wants to hear—her son had suffered a stroke. "I didn't believe it," she says. "I told the doctors it wasn't possible, but unfortunately it was."
Sam was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease—a rare disorder that usually affects children. It's caused by blocked arteries at the base of the brain. Sam's initial treatment included brain surgeries to promote blood vessel activity. But after his fourth and final stroke, Sam lost his ability to speak, walk and swallow and he needed a feeding tube. "He couldn't sit up so he had to be put in a baby walker. It was devastating," says Sue.
Six months later, tests showed that the surgeries were successful and blood was flowing properly to Sam's brain, news that allowed Sue and her family to focus on the physical impairments the strokes left behind.
Sam began working with Shelley Payne, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and Augusta Health's Recreation Therapy Supervisor, and her team of specialists. This rehabilitation team focuses on improving Sam's physical functioning while providing strength and support for him and his family. "It's a sudden, new way of life for patients and their families and we're here to help them come to terms with it all," says Payne.
Sam, now 12 years old, visits Augusta Health four times a week for speech, occupational and physical therapies. "Augusta provides us with everything we need, so Sam can get all of his therapies in one place," says Sue. "The rehab staff is amazing. Doing all of this rehab could be tedious for a 12-year-old boy, but the staff is so dedicated to keeping Sam motivated. They focus on what he needs to work on. Sam's whole life is incorporated, whether it's something a teacher at school suggests or his baseball coaches point out."
The care and treatment Sam receives at Augusta Health and the hard work he and his family have done have reaped great benefits. Sam walks, runs, plays baseball in a special needs baseball league and loves to be outdoors. And he's learned to use a talking device to communicate. "It's opened up a whole new world," says Sue.