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The Warmest Part of the Winter: Decklyn’s Story

It’s a cold winter day in northeast Wichita.

Despite the grey skies and low temperatures, the Heartspring Outpatient Services therapy rooms are as busy and sunny as ever with play, laughter, and the remarkable warmth from within.

The physical therapy gym is no exception to this. Crisp, fresh snowflakes fall to the ground as two-year-old Decklyn gracefully rises, standing strongly on his two legs and trusting fully in the support beneath him. With his smile, the room glistens with the ardor of a strong, invincible spirit and the shine of sweet childlike innocence.

Decklyn has fought to move since the traumatizing stroke he lived at birth. This shocking moment defined the lifelong condition for him: cerebral palsy.

“It was very scary,” says Cassidy, Decklyn’s mom. “But he was diagnosed right at birth, and this helped us get the help he needed from the beginning.”

One in every 323 infants— roughly 12,000 babies in the United States—get diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year.

In fact, cerebral palsy is the most common childhood physical disability, but unlike other diagnoses, it represents a spectrum of different developmental disorders and a lifetime condition without a cure.

Because of the stroke, Decklyn is partially paralyzed in his right arm and has several delays, including speech, feeding, and fine motor skills. And while there may not be a cure or solution, thanks to the early therapy intervention, his movements are getting stronger every day—and he is set up for success, one step at a time.

“For cerebral palsy, early intervention is especially important,” says Director of Pediatric Services Kara Gibson. “Within the first year of a child’s life, critical motor and brain development occurs. This time period is critical for developing foundation skills needed for independence, and early intervention can provide the most positive outcomes for better long-term results.”

“You can do it, buddy!” exclaims Physical Therapist Erin Bullinger, as she holds Decklyn’s hands while he practices his balance by standing on one foot. He lights up with joy, and he smiles from ear to ear as he adoringly gazes at his mother, whom he knows is delighted to see him work hard.

Since he started therapy at Heartspring, the hallways of the Outpatient Services department have witnessed major improvements in Decklyn’s mobility and independence.

“In matter of six months, he began pulling to stand independently, cruising around furniture, standing on his own, and he even took his first steps over the holidays,” mentions Erin.

This is a milestone moment Cassidy will never forget.

“It was so emotional to see my son walking by himself for the first time,” says Cassidy, as she recalls the joy she felt when it happened. “I’m not going to lie, I cried.”

With open arms, Decklyn cheerfully sprints across the gym to his mother as he babbles and beams with happiness.

In the midst of the bitter cold wintry season, Cassidy and Erin grin with joy as they feel the pleasant, loving warmth from Decklyn’s smile.

This smile—this instant of pure wholeheartedness joy—is the warmest part of the winter.

(Click each photo to enlarge)

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being,
let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” ~William Penn