Physical Therapy for the CHD Kid

20 Oct

For the past 25+ years, doctors have been honing the techniques that are saving the lives of children born with heart defects that are similar to my son’s.  The oldest person I know with his condition, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), is 27 years old.  In addition to being a wonderful inspiration to our family; allowing us to see all that these kids are capable of, our dear friend,  Jeni Busta, has also answered the many questions we have asked and has offered great advice for living well with this condition.  One of the things she recommended we do with Landon is to get him into physical therapy.  Many of these kids end up with back issues, flexibility issues and trouble with scar tissue.  As these kids live longer lives, it is necessary to not merely make sure their hearts keep beating, but also make sure to take a whole body approach.  While we do allow Landon treats and sweets, we have built a foundation for him with healthy eating.  We are ensuring that his physical strength and flexibility are addressed, as well.   I checked with Landon’s pediatrician and cardiologist and received the go-ahead and prescription necessary to receive physical therapy.

We found a wonderful Physical Therapist (DPT) at San Diego Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Center.  Dean works so well with Landon and really makes things fun for him, while keeping his attention during a one hour session.  Landon really looks forward to his PT sessions!  For him, it is a fun time, not just ANOTHER doctor’s appointment!  In the few months Landon has been receiving PT, I have really noticed his balance, jumping and strength have greatly improved.

I took a few photos of our latest session to provide an idea of the types of things they work on.

Scar Massage

Not all doctors think this method is necessary.  Our cardiologist didn’t seem to think there would be a benefit, but gave the OK for us to do it.  Landon’s scar does seem much less lumpy and thick than before.

Rolling the Fitness Ball

Stretching on the Fitness Ball

The first time Landon did this stretch on the fitness ball, it really showed that it was such a relief for him.  He was so relaxed!  The look on his face was priceless; he almost looked shocked that he was able to get such relief from a stretch.

Assisted Pull-ups

Over-hand and Under-hand Medicine Ball Throw

This is just a sample of what occurs during one of Landon’s PT sessions.

Considering that during Landon’s first 5 1/2 years of life, he cumulatively spent an entire year recovering from his five open-heart surgeries, pacemaker surgery and numerous heart caths, the benefits he is receiving from physical therapy are beyond measure!

*Our many thanks to Dean Makredes, DPT, for allowing us to publish our experience with him and for the wonderful care he provides Landon!

**DISCLAIMER: This post is in no way providing medical advice.  Before participating in any of the mentioned techniques, I would advise you to check with your physician, just as we did prior to starting our program.


7 Responses to “Physical Therapy for the CHD Kid”

  1. Valerie October 20, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

    What a great experience for your son! He looks to be really enjoying it! 🙂 The therapist is probably more like a buddy than a doctor to him, huh? So glad he is gaining strength, balance, etc! 😀


  2. shoes November 3, 2012 at 9:00 PM #

    Wow, what a rough road your son has had. I am glad that PT has given him some relief and that he enjoys it. My oldest son, who is 6 and has mild Cerebral Paley has been seeing a PT and an OT pretty much his entire life. He loves his sessions, some are one on one with the therapist and some are group sessions that focus on teamwork and exercise. Cody’s strength and balance have continued to improve and I think a great part of that is due to his PT sessions.


  3. Gabrielle January 19, 2013 at 4:59 PM #

    I’m 27 also HLHS I’m from Michigan. I know what you mean by back issues I have them real bad, that and shoulder problems, they think it is from scar tissue.


    • Jennifer Pease-Shaw January 19, 2013 at 9:22 PM #

      I am from Michigan and i have a daughter with HLHS and other heart defects i would love to chat with you can you look me up on facebook Gabrielle 🙂


      • Jennifer Pease-Shaw January 19, 2013 at 9:24 PM #

        I think this is a wonderful idea for these children to be in physical therapy i am definitely going to check in to it for my daughter……..Thank you for sharing your experience 🙂


      • Our Life With Kids January 22, 2013 at 4:41 PM #

        So glad we could help. That’s our intention with sharing what we learn along the way! Let me know how your daughter likes it!


    • Our Life With Kids January 22, 2013 at 4:48 PM #

      Hi Gabrielle! I recognize your name from the heart community. Thanks for commenting. Other than the back issues, I hope everything else is well with you! We always love hearing from the “kids” who have paved this road for us!


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