Five-year-old girl paralysed after performing backbend

Five-year-old Eden Hoelscher faces intensive therapy to increase sensation in her lower body. Photo / Go Fund Me
Five-year-old Eden Hoelscher faces intensive therapy to increase sensation in her lower body. Photo / Go Fund Me

When little Eden Hoelscher pulled a playful gymnastics move on the floor of her mother's lounge, her life changed forever.

Entertaining herself while her mother showered, the active 5-year-old from California attempted a backbend or "bridge" gymnastics pose.

When she collapsed to the floor in tears, her mother, Kylee Hoelscher, assumed it was only a minor tumble.

"When she cried that her legs, back and hips hurt, I gathered her in my arms and rocked her, shushing her, telling her to calm down," Hoelscher wrote on Stand for Eden, the Go Fund Me page she has created for her daughter.

But rather than brushing herself off and carrying on, as her "adrenaline junkie" daughter usually would, Eden just "stopped".

"Her face changed - it kind of filled with wonder - and she told me, 'Mum, I feel like my feet are sleeping.'"

Terrified, Hoelscher rushed her daughter to hospital, where Eden was to remain for the next 52 days.

As the extent of her injuries unfolded, doctors said the little girl was not only paraplegic, but she had also suffered a stroke.

So how did doing an exercise Eden had performed countless times before cause such a devastating impact?

Hoelscher explains that on this particular occasion when her daughter performed the bridge, the backbend hyperextended her spine and "caused the artery that feeds her spinal cord to stop pumping blood". This then resulted in a stroke.

"The extent of the damage is unheard of," she wrote. "Her stroke was in T8/9, she stretched the ligaments in T3/4, and the damage extends up and down her spinal cord from T2-T12."

Doctors have called the incident, which happened on December 23 last year, an "uncommon occurrence", and are yet to fully understand exactly how it all ended so badly.

According to details on her Go Fund Me page, Eden is now in a wheelchair. She has lost the ability to sit on her own, as well as the use of her bowels and bladder. Eden is unable to regulate her own temperature and can't reach a sink to wash her hands or brush her teeth. In order to prevent painful pressure sores, her parents need to move her twice a night to make sure she isn't in the same position for too long.

Speaking to ABC News, Julie Hershberg, Eden's neurological therapist, said the child's resilience was remarkable.

"Kids could be hard to keep on task and focused, but she is probably the hardest working child or adult I've ever worked with," she said. "I think that's going to go a long way in her recovery. She just blows me away."

Eden's bubbly, unbreakable spirit has amazed her doctors. Photo / Go Fund Me
Eden's bubbly, unbreakable spirit has amazed her doctors. Photo / Go Fund Me

Her positive attitude and unbreakable spirit has even earned her the nickname "Daredevil Eden" from hospital staff, and she started back at school just one week after leaving her hospital bed.

"One thing that's amazing about Eden is she has not changed throughout this whole ordeal," Hoelscher says. "She's still the same laughing, giggly, silly self. It's amazing that her spirit has completely gone unchanged. The doctor said that's one of the things she has going for her."

Next month, Eden will undergo an intensive rehabilitation programme alongside a team of therapists, physicians, nurses and social workers. The two-week therapy programme aims to regenerate Eden's bladder and bowel functions and bring back sensation to her lower body.

While doctors work on the physical gains, Eden's mother is doing her best to stay positive. "These therapies will also provide what we need most of all: hope."

- nzherald.co.nz

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