Camren Offenberger is a bit of a celebrity in his hometown. A big fan of Ohio’s winningest football team, the Massillon Tigers, he served as the team’s honorary captain from 2017-2019 from ages 7 to 9. Now 13 years old and a 7th grader at Massillon Jr. High School, Camren is getting ready to launch his own YouTube channel to share what it’s like to live with cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disorder that causes stiffness and trouble moving. Born prematurely, he is also blind in one eye, but that doesn’t stop him from living life to the fullest.
“Camren plays wheelchair basketball and loves to video game,” said his mom, Ashley. “He loves to go to school. He’s very social.”
Since birth, Camren has been a patient at Akron Children’s. He first met Dr. Micah Baird, pediatric physiatrist, in May 2011 when Dr. Baird diagnosed him with CP. He now sees a variety of specialists in the hospital’s Spasticity Clinic which offers a place for coordinated care from experts in physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurosurgery, orthopedics, psychology and physical and occupational therapy.
“Spasticity is caused by a central nervous system injury (CP, brain injury, spinal cord injury, and stroke are examples),” said Dr. Baird. “The injury to the central nervous system results in disinhibition of spinal reflexes which cause an increase in muscle tone or spasticity.”
One of Camren’s first therapies for spasticity involved Botox injections.
“He had serial injections with botulinum toxin to his lower extremities and arm growing up to help with function, walking and hand use,” said Dr. Baird. “Botulinum toxins block the signal from the nerve to the muscles that are causing the uncontrolled muscle activation (spasticity).”
In 2016, Ashley noticed Camren was dragging his feet and his right foot was collapsing when he walked.
“I was buying him new shoes monthly because he was going through them so fast,” she said.
A candidate for SDR (selective dorsal rhizotomy), Camren underwent the spinal operation with pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Tsulee Chen in 2016 to help reduce his leg spasticity.
“The surgery helped tremendously,” said Ashley. “His foot doesn’t collapse anymore, and he can lift his leg better and walk more efficiently.”
Before his SDR surgery, Dr. Baird saw Camren every 2-3 months for follow-ups and injections. Since the SDR, he sees him less frequently.
“The Spasticity Clinic evaluates every 1-2 years after an intervention like SDR or orthopedic surgery to monitor outcomes and make recommendations,” said Dr. Baird.
More recently, Camren was having issues with his right hand and leg and underwent another surgery in 2022. According to Dr. Stephanie Russo, pediatric hand and peripheral nerve surgeon, wrist function is frequently problematic in patients with CP.
“When wrist extension is limited, it makes it difficult to make a fist. Improving wrist function can help hand function, as well,” she said. “Additionally, many patients are unhappy with the appearance of their arm with the wrist bent down as it sometimes draws undesired attention.”
As part of the comprehensive and collaborative care offered in the Spasticity Clinic, Dr. Russo and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Sheryl Handler, were able to operate on Camren at the same time decreasing the number of procedures he would need.
“Combining the surgeries meant less time under anesthesia, less recovery time and less time out of school,” said Dr. Russo. “When possible, Dr. Handler and I try to operate together whenever a patient with CP needs procedures done for both their arm(s) and leg(s).”
Camren’s case is a great example of the teamwork and family-centered care provided at Akron Children’s.
“Not only was he able to see multiple disciplines in the Spasticity Clinic where his surgical needs were identified, but Dr. Handler and I see Camren back for follow-up visits on the same days to minimize travel for Camren and his family,” said Dr. Russo.
Since surgery, Camren has seen improvements in both his right hand and leg and Ashley, for one, is very grateful.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” she said. “The doctors are wonderful and really care about my son.”
For more information on the hospital’s Spasticity Clinic, visit akronchildrens.org.