Elijah Smith, now 14, had a typical period of development following his birth. When he was four months old, he began to have seizures, sometimes more than 50 times a day.
“These were not minor seizures, they were Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal) seizures,” Elijah’s mother, Marissa says. “The doctor literally said to us, ‘We really don’t know what’s going on. But some babies make it and some babies don’t and you should be prepared for that.’”
After multiple evaluations, Elijah was referred to Gillette Children’s.
A Difficult Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy
“The best guess regarding Elijah’s seizures is that he had encephalitis,” Marissa says. “When we got the diagnosis of cerebral palsy, we knew we were at the right place at Gillette.”
Elijah has been a patient at Gillette since he was one. He’s had 13 surgical procedures throughout that time, including Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy Surgery (SDR).
SDR surgery removes the faulty nerve roots in the spinal cord that are misfiring and causing muscle tightness and spasticity.
The procedure effectively relieves the spasticity of the muscles, but muscle spasticity is both friend and foe, simultaneously holding you up while also holding you back. Once its gone, patients have to learn how to use muscles they’ve never really used before. The rehabilitation process requires carefully scheduled physical and occupational therapy that usually lasts between four to six weeks.
Elijah’s mother will tell you that is a long period of time for a young child to stay in the hospital, but Elijah attacked his recovery and never complained about the process.
Elijah’s Resilient Spirit
“For Elijah, there were aspects of the process that would frustrate anyone, as it can feel like you get through one thing, just to get to another,” Marissa says. “But he kept pushing. He’s incredibly resilient and never asked, ‘Why me?’”
After seeing the care that Elijah received at Gillette, Marissa applied for and accepted a job working for Gillette’s patient access team.
“I wanted to have a job that was meaningful, but I also wanted to have the opportunity to change the dynamics around the term of disability,” Marissa says. “Society tends to put limits on what we can do, especially with children who have disabilities. I don’t believe there’s anything Elijah can’t do, even if he has to do some of those things differently.”
Who Elijah Is
“Elijah is amazing,” Marissa says. “He really enjoys and is always listening to music. It’s healing for him.”
Elijah comes from a long family line of disc jockeys and had his first set recently at Franklin Middle School in Minneapolis. By all accounts, it went incredibly well. The future for Elijah looks bright!