October 6th marked World Cerebral Palsy Day—a day where the global community came together to raise awareness for and celebrate those living (and thriving) with cerebral palsy (CP). Here at Brown Trial Firm, we think about children and adults with CP all year long because we represent these individuals in birth injury lawsuits all around the country.
As a law firm, our mission is to help improve the lives of individuals and families affected by preventable birth injuries and medical negligence by securing financial compensation through the legal system to pay for costly medical treatments and therapies. But we also seek to support those with CP with valuable resources and information to help them thrive, such as our article on the best gifts for children with CP.
Unsurprisingly, we decided to focus on this topic in our very first scholarship essay contest. We asked college students to submit essays highlighting some of the most innovative and exciting modern therapies, treatments and activities available for children with cerebral palsy and their families.
Though we received many impressive and unique essays from students all across the country, in the end we could only select 1 winner of the $1,000 scholarship prize. We’re thrilled to announce that the winning essay of our 2021 scholarship contest was submitted by Cheyenne Schad from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
And without further ado, here is their essay:
Essay question: What innovative therapies and activities improve the lives of children with cerebral palsy and their families?
An Innovation: Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cell Therapy
Cerebral palsy significantly impacts children and their families, increasing the need for viable therapies. The research, application, and effectiveness of potential therapies for cerebral palsy have evolved since the coinage of the term in 1862 (Jiao et al., 2019). Common treatments include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and medications. However, their success is limited. Umbilical cord blood (UCB) is an interest for scientists working toward management and treatment of cerebral palsy in children. This approach offers promising results for improved health of patients and their families. Compared to other treatments, the use of UCB stem cells offers greater safety, efficacy, financial accessibility, and regulation of potential side effects. Jiao et al. (2019) states, “72.8% of patients with cerebral palsy benefit from UCB-related cell therapy.” Improvements vary, but the smallest change can positively influence the life of a person with cerebral palsy.
Families of children with cerebral palsy are also significantly impacted by the diagnoses. Parents may struggle to maintain a job while ensuring their child is receiving proper care. For parents unable to stay in the workforce, their families often face financial repercussions. The emotional health of parents is also under strain. According to Olawale et al. (2013), nearly 40% of parents receive blame for their child’s diagnosis. Olawale et al. also notes the strain to familial relationships, considering 28% of parents rely on extended family for various supports. Due to the broad impact of cerebral palsy, the promising results from UCB stem cell studies is encouraging.
UCB stem cells increase cell regeneration and support through an increase in the release of certain hormones allowing for greater repair to damaged tissues (Jiao et at., 2019). There are some drawbacks of this treatment method. For the treatment to be most effective, doctors must insert the stem cells directly into the brain to bypass the blood-brain barrier. Over 60% of patients experienced some type of adverse reaction to this treatment (Jiao et at., 2019). These treatments are also financially inaccessible to many families. These factors may cause parental hesitation in UCB stem cell therapy for their children.
Using UCB stem cells as a therapy for cerebral palsy in children is a relatively new approach for increased autonomy. Greater success involves reducing treatment drawbacks. Cost must be lowered so all families can afford the care and side effects must be reduced or eliminated. While this is not a cure, the implementation of UCB stem cell therapy in conjunction with traditional treatments shows potential for improving the lives of children with cerebral palsy and their families.
Jiao, Y., Li, X., & Liu, J. (2019). A new approach to cerebral palsy treatment: Discussion of the effective components of umbilical cord blood and its mechanisms of action. Cell Transplantation, 28(5), 497-509. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963689718809658
Olawale, O. A., Deih, A. N., & Yaadar, R. K. (2013). Psychological impact of cerebral palsy on families: The African perspective. Journal of neurosciences in rural practice, 4(2), 159– 163. https://doi.org/10.4103/0976-3147.112752
About our scholarship winner
In 2019, Cheyenne Schad graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences: Community Health Education from Portland State University. For the past 2 years, she has immersed herself in a variety of health-related jobs, including working as a Therapeutic Mentor for individuals with traumatic brain injuries, a medical scribe in the emergency room during the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and a community health educator in a large Arizona county. These unique opportunities encouraged her return to higher education. Now, she is attending the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to pursue a Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology. Her goal as an epidemiologist is to work with communities to create health support systems that decrease the burdens of disease. Only through collaboration will health concerns be properly handled.
Well said, Cheyenne! From all of us here at Brown Trial Firm, we wish you the best in your studies and keep up the great work.
Thanks to everyone who submitted essays. Be sure to visit our Scholarship page again to participate in our next essay contest.
Lastly, revisit our blog soon to read some of our favorite snippets from a selection of other great responses we received for this essay contest.