reinventing the new normal after traumatic brain injury

“My patients have taught me more than what I have learned in a textbook about overcoming the odds.”

That was her answer when I asked her if there was a particular patient story that stuck with her. “Having worked a long time, I am fortunate to see children become young adults and have learned from them how obstacles and barriers can be diminished and eliminated when provided a plan,” she said.

Because as we know, kids are adept at beating the odds.

Susan Dubroff is PT Director of Rehabilitation Services at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital (MWPH). MWPH’s Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Program is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary rehabilitation delivery system, which provides coordinated, cost-effective, goal-oriented treatment to children and adolescents.  They provide rehabilitation to patients from birth to age 21 who need treatment for a variety of issues related to their everyday activities and functioning. 

The program addresses issues such as abnormal muscle tone and walking, eating and communication, and balance and coordination. Common diagnoses include prematurity, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, stroke, brain injury, burns and wounds, and orthopedic injuries. The largest number of patients admitted have brain injuries or orthopedic conditions.

Some, like Kokayi Thomas featured in MWPH’s newest video, found themselves unexpectedly facing a new normal. Kokayi, an athletic, vibrant and outgoing teenager, was diagnosed with a tumor on his brain stem. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor, but it resulted in a brain injury that affected Kokayi’s coordination and balance. He had increased weakness on his right side, and lost his ability to swallow, speak and see clearly. But he didn’t want that to be his new normal. After his steady progress hit a plateau at another area rehabilitation program, Kokayi’s family turned to the outpatient program at MWHP. {You can read more of Kokayi’s story here}.

reinventing the new normal after traumatic brain injury - (cool) progeny

You see, MWPH’s rehabilitation program is about reinventing the new normal for their patients. The end goal for every child who walks through the door? Successfully reintegrating the child to their communities following illness, surgery, or trauma. Many of their patients are transferred from Johns Hopkins Medicine or the University of Maryland for inpatient pediatric rehabilitation following surgery or trauma. Yes, the normal for these children may have changed; but they also have the ability to overcome the odds — as Susan mentioned.

The key to MWPH’s program’s success is an interdisciplinary, team approach. Therapists work together with each other and the medical staff to develop an individual treatment plan.  This allows all of the patient’s needs can be addresses in a holistic way.

“I am excited about the development of new rehabilitation technologies, such as advanced prosthetics,” said Dr. Stephen Nichols, director of the MWPH Rehabilitation Program, “as well as medical treatments which have the promise to help prevent or treat some of the severe, life changing conditions which some of our patients have to deal with. ”

At the heart of every treatment plan for every child is the family. After all, the end goal is to return the child to their community. That means training mom, dad, or a caregiver to not only be able assist their child, but help improve their skills and independence. Treatment goals are discussed with each patient’s family from the beginning. For those patients who are inpatient, MWPH provides training for parents so they capable AND confident when bringing their child home.

reinventing the new normal after traumatic brain injury - (cool) progeny

If you have a child in competitive sports, you know that many organizations are increasingly paying more attention to the effects of traumatic brain injury related to contact sports. While the evidence is still emerging about the cumulative effects of repeated head trauma, Dr. Nichols has suggestions for parents and coaches to help keep your kids playing — safely:

  1. Teach proper technique so sport is played as safely as possible.
  2. Be sure that both parents and coaches recognize the signs of concussion. If a child is having symptoms, he or she should be pulled from the game and evaluated by a medical professional before returning to play.
  3. Think about prevention and conditioning through strength and flexibility.
  4. Consider a pre-participation examination or baseline assessment to identify risks and assess the overall health of your child before practices even start.

our sponsor: mt. washington pediatric hospital

This post is brought to you by Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital

About Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital: Where Children go to Heal and Grow
Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital is a specialty children’s hospital that treats more than 8,000 patients each year on an inpatient and outpatient basis. The 102-bed post-acute hospital specializes in family-focused treatment of children with serious, chronic and/or complex medical needs. MWPH has renown in feeding and sleep disorders, brain injury and rehabilitation, behavioral health and autism, neonatal transition, newborns transitioning from heroin dependence, and childhood obesity, among other service lines. Founded in 1922 as a children’s convalescent home, MWPH is a jointly owned affiliate of The University of Maryland Medical System and The Johns Hopkins Health System. To learn more, visit

Images and video provided by Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.

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About the Author heather

Heather is editor-in-chief of (cool) progeny. When not scouting the best in everything kid and family, you'll probably find her running The Weisse Group or adventuring around town with her kids and husband Patrick. Can be won over with a good glass of wine or something homemade. Addicted to Pinterest. A two-cups-of-coffee-a-day kinda gal. Only pretends to know what she's doing with her SLR, even though she's got a fantastic lens on it.Thankful it does most of the work for her. Navigating the world of special needs parenting. Trying to pay it forward one day at a time. #littlelionchallenge

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