It was an October morning in 2015 that Melissa and Ryan Grassmick will never forget.
“She was running the night before and then overnight this thing happened, we didn’t now why, and in the morning she could not walk,” Grassmick said.
Their daughter Julia, then 17-months old, had a massive blood clot compressing against her spinal cord. The injury left her paralyzed from the waist down.
“It was terrifying at the time because we didn’t know know what was going on,” Melissa Grassmick said.
The Grassmicks were given little to no hope here in Canada and told their daughter would never walk again.
“Their mindset is ok you have had a spinal cord injury, this is permanent so you need to get used to your new life,” Grassmick said describing what doctors in B.C. told her and her husband. “We’ll show you how to use your wheelchair but that’s basically it.”
But Julia’s parents refused to accept the prognosis and after much research, sought help in the United States in clinics in Baltimore and Philadelphia, which specialize in pediatric spinal cod injuries.
“They have a lot of clients there that make such great progress that walk out of there,” Grassmick said.
But taking their little girl to get help stateside has been expensive. With the community’s help, the couple has already spent close to $100,000 for treatments, equipment and the trips they take to the U.S.
In addition, Julia does daily therapy at home, up to 15 hours a week, using equipment such as a gait training treadmill as well as a walker with specialized braces.
The efforts are paying off.
“Those leg braces she was using with her walker, she has to activate her hip flexor muscles to be able to use those and she would have never been able to do that a year ago,” Grassmick said. “With a typical spinal cord injury, if you have no feeling from the waist down, you are not activating muscles. So for her, that is a huge deal.”
Julia’s dad, Ryan, said he’s seeing great progress in his daughter and is hopeful all the therapy and hard work will make a difference down the road.
“We believe that at some point in her lifetime there will be some medical advance that will allow her to walk and have movement,” Ryan said. “If we were not doing the therapy, then she would not be a candidate for any kind of advancement like that so it’s keeping her muscles strong and her joints as well so they move easily.”
While the couple is staying strong for their daughter, Grassmick admits some days are tough, especially in places like playgrounds where there are a lot of children.
“Running around, jumping, playing,” an emotional Grassmick said. “That’s really hard for me to see because she can’t do that right now so I feel like she is missing out on a lot of things.”
The family is going to be incurring more costs in the months ahead for more equipment, an adjustable bed and for another trip to Baltimore, which costs around $15,000 each time.
A golf fundraiser is being organized to help Julia. It is taking place on Sunday, September 10 starting at 12 p.m. at Sunset Ranch Golf Course.
A Facebook page called “Please Help Julia Walk Again” has been set up and provides more information about the little girl and the fundraiser, click here to go to it.