Life Lessons

Life Lessons: Dr. Brunstrom saves kids, saves herself

Life Lessons Helping kids with CP

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affects a person's movement, balance, and posture.

There is no cure, and patients are often told there's nothing that can be done to help them.

However, Jan Brunstrom, MD, at Washington University School of Medicine, wants to change that.

Dr. Brunstrom has had to overcome obstacles her whole life: she has cerebral palsy.

"You grow up walking funny and having people always stare at you and always being judged first by how you look instead of what you know or what you can do," says Brunstrom.

She didn't let the disorder hold her back. She became a doctor, and now runs the most comprehensive and one of the largest cerebral palsy centers for children in the country.

"They are worth fighting for, and they are worth finding answers to help them," Dr. Brunstrom said.

Thirteen-year-old Simon Detmer is one of Dr. Brunstromís patients. His mom, Gina Detmer, says Dr. Brunstrom offers a unique perspective.

"There's no doubt that it does help her to empathize with the kids. I love the fact that she has a very high expectation for him," says Detmer.

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in kids.

About one in every 323 children in the U.S. has it.

Dr. Brunstrom stresses the importance of physical fitness with her patients. She has them perform sports and strength training exercises, but also informs them about the latest medical therapies.

"My goal is to see a cure for CP," Dr. Brunstrom explained. Simon Detmer would like that, too.

"Everything would just be different, [like] my daily things, carrying things, everything," says Simon.

While Dr. Brunstrom has helped many of her patients improve, she says they've also helped her.

"It was the kids and their parents that really taught me that I'm okay the way I am," Dr. Brunstrom said. "I would not be the person that I am if it weren't for all these kids."

Brunstrom is a doctor who knows the challenges her patients face, and wants to help them every step of the way.

Dr. Brunstrom's Pediatric Neurology Cerebral Palsy Center is located in St. Louis.

The center has a team of experts including neurologists, orthopedic surgeons and nurses. They also have occupational, physical, speech and sports therapists, sports rehab, and an augmentative communication team to help patients.

Dr. Brunstrom has been active herself in cycling, dancing, swimming, martial arts, and other sports.

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