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Prisma Health ramps up program to make assistive “mini” cars available to children with mobility disabilities


Santa may have his jaunty red sleigh, but, as of noon Friday, Prisma Health Children’s Hospital patients Brady Bailey and Greyson West will have their own equally magical means of transportation thanks to a new assistive-car project through the Prisma Health Center for Prosthetics and Orthotics.

After establishing a new chapter of the worldwide Go Baby Go program, Prisma Health orthotists and prosthetists will work with clinicians to determine how best to customize the ride-on toy cars so that children with mobility challenges – such as four-year-old Brady and three-year-old Greyson – can safety “drive” them to play and socialize with their peers and surroundings more easily. Each modified car is evaluated by a clinical engineering team and then given free of charge to families or recipient organizations.

“It’s hard to get around in the grass with a wheelchair, and this will allow him to be in the yard and driveway,” said Brady’s mother, Amy Bailey. “It’s a game changer for him to be outside and do the things that other four-year-olds can do.”  

“Greyson wants to do so much, but his body won’t let him,” said Greyson’s mother, Samantha Johnson. “This will change a lot for him. He’s an outgoing little boy, and I think this will bring out even more of his personality.”

The program, which gave away its first car last month, was intended to roll out slowly in Columbia and Greenville, but Prisma Health team members immediately began donating their own money to help get additional cars placed with families by Christmas. 

Prisma Health Ambulance Service, which includes paramedics, emergency medical technicians and support staff, bought four fire-engine-red “paramedic units” within hours of hearing about the program and then emblazoned them with EMS and paramedic insignia.

“Caring for children goes beyond providing extraordinary care,” said Aaron Dix, executive director of Prisma Health Emergency Medical Services. “We also have to help address the quality-of-life issues that influence overall happiness and health. My fellow team members were honored to donate their personal time and money in support of this amazing program.” 

The care management and utilization management teams, meanwhile, bought three Jeep-style cars, with two of them intended for use at Prisma Health Children’s Hospitals in Greenville and Columbia. “Go Baby Go embodies the basic social-work principle of meeting the patients where they are and the nursing principle of helping them to achieve their goals,” said Laura Lowe, the executive director of those teams. Her teams exceeded their donation goal in under a week. “After a very tough two years, it felt wonderful to make such a potentially profound difference in the lives of families.”

More than $2,500 in personal donations was raised within a few weeks, making possible the purchase and retrofit of seven assistive cars. Each car’s purchase and retrofit is approximately $350.

The modified vehicles can be steered and moved forward by the child or remotely operated by a parent. Additional assistive modifications include supportive seating and the addition of external frames for postural support, said Todd O’Hare, manager of the Center for Prosthetics and Orthotics. These first cars will go to children for home use as well as to local organizations like The Wonder Center.

O’Hare hopes to make the cars available in both the Upstate and Midlands with the help of community support.

Go Baby Go is a worldwide, community-based research, design and outreach program that provides modified ride-on toy cars to children with limited mobility free of cost. Independent mobility is widely linked to cognitive, social, motor and other developmental benefits in young children. But for children with mobility-limiting conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries and muscle weakness, independent environmental exploration may be difficult or impossible. 

“Being pushed in a stroller or being carried from one place to another is very different from having active control over one’s own environment,” said Dr. Cady Williams, the medical director of The Wonder Center, which provides therapeutic day treatment for children with medical and developmental problems requiring daily nursing care. It is part of Prisma Health Children’s Hospital. “We’re thrilled to have this new option to potentially offer patients. 

“The power of play in a child’s development cannot be understated. It is even more important for a child with medical complexity,” she said. “Play helps children advance developmentally, cope, manage pain, express themselves and connect with others. It’s absolutely critical to their growth and development.”

“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the vision of the Center for Prosthetics and Orthotics and our incredible team members who supported this initial roll out,” she said.

Participation in the program was spearheaded by orthotist/prosthetist Katie Willison. “We have mechanically adept people in the orthotics and prosthetics department who like to create, problem-solve and then turn those ideas into physical devices,” said Willison. “That’s what we do every day when we design and fit custom artificial limbs to replace lost limbs or braces to restore function and stability. When you combine these skills with those of occupational and physical therapists - whose job it is to get children mobile - it seemed like a perfect fit.”

The center’s team worked with retired engineers at Furman University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on its initial build and hope to work with them on additional design challenges in the future. 

For more information on the program or to financially support it, visit prismahealth.org/prostheticsandorthotics

To text to give, use GoBabyGo to 41444. Or use a mobile-cause link at igfn.us/form/2Y8nlg, using keyword GoBabyGo.