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The news about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s 26-year-old son Zain’s death earlier this week, has steered global attention towards celebral palsy.
A common cause of disability among children, cerebral palsy is a term that encompasses conditions related to abnormalities of tone, posture or movements. These are caused by damage to the developing brain during pregnancy, during birth or shortly after birth. A widely prevalent condition across the world, its symptoms can vary from one person to another.
While those with a milder form of the condition may need a little assistance for daily chores, those with severe form of celebral palsy may even require to use special equipment to walk, or they may be unable to walk and need caregiving.
Dr Usha Mallinath, Consultant – Paediatric Neurologist, Manipal Hospital Whitefield, Bengaluru, tells HealthShots, “Children and adults with cerebral palsy can stay well, active and be a part of the community with adequate and appropriate usage of services and support systems.”
The expert explains that though there is no cure for cerebral palsy, “usage of resources and therapies can help kids grow and develop to their greatest potential and improve their quality of life”.
For this, it is significant to identify children with cerebral palsy and initiate treatment on timely basis.
According to Dr Mallinath, treatment options can include medications, therapies, surgical procedures and other treatments as needed.
“A child’s quality of life can improve with treatment that may involve medicine or surgery. Even various therapies including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy will aid the child with movement, speech and learning,” she adds.
If a child undergoes surgery, it can help in fixing dislocated hips and curved spine which are commonly found in kids with cerebral palsy.
To improve the quality of life, leg braces can help them to facilitate walking. Other special equipments are also available to help kids get around and communicate with others, without feeling left out.
Celebral palsy does not get worse over time, says Dr Malliwal, while adding the mental health aspect of battling the condition.
“Living with cerebral palsy is highly challenging for both the child and parents. To help the child move and learn as much as possible, parents need to work closely with the care team to develop a treatment plan individualized to the child”s needs.”
Life for Satya Nadella and his wife Anu had turned around the day Zain was born. In a 2017 LinkedIn post, Nadella had opened up how when Zain was born prematurely, little did they know “how profoundly our lives would change”.
“Over the course of the next couple of years, we learned more about the damage caused by in utero asphyxiation, and how Zain would require a wheelchair and be reliant on us because of severe cerebral palsy. I was devastated,” Nadella had shared.
He wrote that his wife’a approach to the difficult situation was a motivator.
“For Anu, it was never about what this meant for her — it was always about what it meant for Zain and how we could best care for him. Rather than asking ‘why us?’ she instinctually felt his pain before her own… As his parents, it was up to us not to question ‘why’, but instead to do everything we could to improve his life,” added Nadella.
For him, becoming a father of a son with special needs was the “turning point” in his life. And it also helped him better understand the journey of people with disabilities.