For the Love of a Grandson: Caring for Carter
Donald Douglass may have expected to be retired by now, but instead he has a fulltime job — raising his grandson. Carter, who will turn 8 in August, was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that can cause muscle weakness and affect mobility and balance.
Not only is Don responsible for all day-to-day parenting activities, including driving Carter to and from school and taking him to swimming, but he’s also responsible for making sure his grandson has all the necessary medical care he needs.
“I can't see myself anywhere else, doing anything else,” says Don. “Pop Pop…that's my label.”
Pop Pop schedules and takes Carter to doctor, physical therapy and orthotic appointments. “Carter's been fortunate that all the people who take care of him have been very friendly, courteous and loving,” says Don. “And for that reason, Carter gives that love right back. He knows they're helping him.”
Making strides with ankle foot orthoses
One of Carter’s favorite caregivers is Shawn Koehler, an orthotist at Boston O&P of Annapolis, who the typically-reserved Carter hugs and high fives whenever he sees him. Nearly five years ago, Shawn fitted Carter for his first pair of ankle foot orthoses (AFOs). They’re what keep Carter walking heel first, while also helping to maintain stability and balance.
“Being witness to Carter’s progress and the recipient of his appreciation and gratitude is the one of the most remarkable outcomes any orthotist could ever experience,” says Shawn.
With the AFOs, Don says it’s hard to tell Carter has any mobility challenges. “He walks like any other kid his age, and he doesn't dwell on his own his condition. He takes it in stride.”
This March, Carter underwent surgery at Children's National Hospital, in Washington D.C, to lengthen his muscles and relieve some tightness in his ligaments. It was a long process. He wore casts from the knee down for about 10 weeks.
During Carter’s recovery, Shawn came to the hospital for their appointments and worked closely with the physical therapist to create a pair of AFOs that would provide the support and stability he needed.
“I don't know how other organizations work, but Boston O&P was so accommodating,” says Don. “They made two or three trips to the hospital to measure, try on and then actually deliver the device.”
Carter’s most recent pair of AFOs have a Spiderman design — a symbol of superhuman strength and agility. In the Marvel Comic Strip and in the movies, Spiderman has no side-kick or mentor to help him fight off his foes. But Carter does. He has the unwavering support of a dedicated care team and the encouragement and unconditional love of his Pop Pop.