Six-year-old Trent Sparks and his twin sister, Tessa, entered the world prematurely at 34 weeks. They spent a month in the Akron Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit. While Tessa met her developmental milestones, Trent fell behind.
“We started working with the Medina County Help Me Grow program when Trent was 9 months old,” his mom, Abby, said. “He had a brain MRI at Akron Children’s when he was about a year old. He was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy (CP) a few months later.”
The most common problem associated with Trent’s form of CP is muscle stiffness – called “spasticity” – primarily in the legs. Trent underwent everything from occupational and physical therapy to Botox injections, not learning to walk until age 3.
In September 2016, Trent had a selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery performed in St. Louis. “They went into Trent’s spine to cut some nerve endings,” Abby explained, “with the goal of reducing the pain and stiffness in his legs.”
Three days after surgery, Trent returned to Akron Children’s Hospital for a month of inpatient rehabilitation. “He had to relearn how to walk,” Abby said. “It was such a difficult time for our family, but everyone at Akron Children’s Hospital was wonderful. From the therapists to the cleaning staff, Trent made friends with everyone.”
After discharge from inpatient rehab, Trent spent one month in the day rehabilitation program. He then transitioned to outpatient physical and occupational therapy at the Medina Rehabilitative Services office, conveniently located near the Sparks’ home in Seville. “Since his surgery, Trent has mastered pedaling a two-wheeled bike with training wheels, jumping and ascending/descending stairs,” said Physical Therapist Jane Caprez. “We’re currently working on refining his gait – his walking pattern – along with one-foot balance and hopping.”
Trent’s exercises include “Superman lifts” on a therapy ball to strengthen his core, sit-ups, wall squats and training on a treadmill. “In my 31 years as a pediatric therapist, I have to say that Trent is the hardest working and most determined child I have ever worked with,” Jane shared. “He is always up for a challenge and is competitive in nature. He rarely complains and never says he can’t do something. He’s my hero.”
Trent has progressed so much that he sees Jane just twice a month now, instead of 2-3 times a week. Since his surgery, he no longer needs Botox injections and doesn’t take medication. “He’s doing awesome,” Abby said. “He runs and jumps, takes swimming lessons and does therapeutic horseback riding. He even played T-ball this summer.”
In addition to those activities, Trent raises lambs to show at the Medina County Fair. “My husband, Justin, grew up in Medina County and lived on a farm,” Abby said. “Trent’s older brother, Clayton, shows sheep with 4-H – and now Trent is involved as well. The boys just love raising the sheep and getting ready for the fair. They don’t realize they are actually working.”
The Sparks family gathered in early August to cheer on Trent, Tessa and Clayton at the fair. Trent had another special person in attendance: Jane, his physical therapist. “It was such a joy to see Trent in action this year at the Medina County Fair,” she said. “It was great to see him in his element, showing his sheep with his siblings and dad.”
Trent’s efforts paid off with a first-place ribbon for his age group. Now he’s looking forward to success in his first-grade classroom. “Trent has the best attitude,” Abby said. “He’s taught me about patience and kindness. When you have a child with a disability, it takes your idea of kindness to a whole new level.”
Jane commends Trent’s family for helping him succeed. “He is blessed to have a loving and supportive immediate and extended family,” she said. “His parents and older brother are great role models for him. His parents have high expectations; they encourage and support Trent in all that he does.”