Rancho's miracle baby can walk again

DOWNEY - More than 18 months after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given just four weeks to live, Rancho's miracle girl Jamielyn Munoz is still defying the odds against her and moving forward with her life.The beautiful and precocious six-year-old, who captured the hearts of the Rancho staff and the community with her fight for life at the end of 2010, returned to Rancho this month for four weeks of rehabilitation to re-learn how to walk after being confined to a power wheelchair for the past two years. When Jamielyn came to Rancho in October 2010, she was unable to move or even talk. But Rancho and her family didn't give up on her, and she responded by learning to use an iPad to communicate. On her fifth birthday December 31, 2010, she was given a spectacular princess birthday party by the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation. It became one of the most emotional parties ever held for a child at Rancho because of the love that the Rancho staff had built up for this determined little girl, who fought against all odds and won. Although she received many presents during her birthday party, the joy on her face when she received an iPad to take home was an image few who saw it will ever forget. "She uses her iPad to run around the unit and sing, and also to watch movies," said Rancho Recreation Therapist Julie Helgren, a member of Jamielyn's Pediatric Rehabilitation team. "On our recent outing to the Stonewood Mall, she sang all the way to the mall and sang all the way back home," Julie said. "She loves to sing and knows songs by Rhianna and Selena Gomez and other music that is played on the radio." Her clinicians say Jamielyn is very bright. "She expresses herself in such fun and unique ways," Julie said. "She loves to play games and loves to win. She loves the challenge of the memory game with as many people as will play with her. She looks at you with those big brown eyes and laughs so unrestrainedly you wonder how she could have ever been so sick." Jamielyn has three goals for her current Rancho rehab: * To increase her tolerance off of the ventilator to 1 hour. "We are making headway because she can now go 20 minutes off the ventilator already," said Rancho Pediatric physician Melanie Sarino, MD. * To begin to learn how to eat again. "She has some anxiety about eating off the ventilator, but she is making progress," Dr. Sarino said. "She is taking ¼-inch bites of food, and although she is very hypersensitive in her mouth, we are helping to desensitize her mouth more each day so that she can increase her ability to eat." * To begin to walk again. Working with Rancho Physical Therapists Oliver De La Paz and Jan Furumasu, she was readied for walking by placing casts on both her legs for stability and to ease her contractures. This week marked Jamielyn's first attmpt to walk. She was unsteady on her legs, which was only natural for a girl who had been using a power wheelchair for so long. On this special day, with physical therapist Jan Furumasu spotting her and Julie pushing her wheelchair beside her, Jamielyn was ready to try. She slowly moved her left leg a fraction of an inch, then a little more and a little more. Then her right leg began to move. "I can do it!" she exclaimed. Suddenly Jamielyn was walking! Word spread like wildfire around the Pediatrics area and suddenly there was a whole team of clinicians cheering Jamielyn on. "You are doing great, pretty girl!", "You are amazing!", "Go Jamielyn, Go!" they shouted. And she did. Step after step, Jamielyn moved down the first floor of the Jacquelin Perry Institute hallway. After about 20 steps, her little legs exhausted, she was done...but only for a moment. "Can you do four more steps?" Jan exhorted. Then Jamielyn's legs were moving again, taking four, then eight, then 12 and finally another 20 steps down the hall. She had walked more than 40 feet!" But this courageous girl still wasn't done. She had waited so long to walk again, and she made the most of it. "I can walk some more!" she said. And for a third time she headed down the hall, putting one foot in front of the other as her doctors, therapists and nurses cheered every step. Finally, after walking 100 feet, Jamielyn was finished...but she had a giant smile on her face. As she has done so many times on the long road back, Jamielyn exceeded all expectations. Tears were flowing freely from Rancho staff as she climbed back into her wheelchair. "I did it, I did it!" said the girl whose heart knows no bounds. "It is so exciting to see her take steps and move forward," Julie said. It's moments like this that make us all so proud to be working at Rancho, where we work as a team to help each and every patient reach their goals. But there's something especially magical about young children like Jamielyn. She is so small, but she has such a big heart!" Jamielyn was also a star at last week's Easter Egg Hunt, put on as always by the Optimist Club of Downey. "She was the first person out there," Julie said. "She was able to verbalize the color of the eggs, where they were and who should pick them up. She loves to socialize with the group and be active." "We remember little Jamielyn when she first came to the hospital and couldn't even move," said Optimist Club and Rancho Los Amigos Foundation Board Member Sam Mathis. "It is simply amazing to see the progress she has made since her birthday party. Miracles happen at Rancho every day, but Jamielyn's progress is one of the greatest miracles I've seen in more than 30 years of volunteering at the hospital. If you would have told me a year and a half ago that she would be talking, playing games, and now walking....I would have told you it would be impossible. But just look at her...it brings tears to my eyes every time I think about how this little girl's life has changed for the better." "Jamielyn is a real-life example of why Rancho is the only hospital in the state of California accredited in Pediatrics by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities," said Rancho Chief Executive Officer Jorge Orozco. "Our Pediatrics team does amazing work with the children of Rancho, because they are not only talented clinicians, they put their heart and soul into helping every single child who comes through our doors." It has been a tough couple of years for Jamielyn's family. Her father, who works in construction, has had little work and the family has struggled to make ends meet. The Rancho Foundation, the California Community Foundation's Pass it Along Fund and Supervisor Don Knabe and his staff have reached out to help Jamielyn and her family make it through their challenging times. Despite the adversities they have faced, Jamielyn's family has approached each day with hope that their lives will improve. Experiencing Jamielyn's incredible recovery has not only inspired her family, it has been an inspiration to everyone at Rancho. "It is an honor to work with her," Julie said. "I feel so blessed to have Jamielyn in my Rancho life. I come in to work and she is happy to see me, and she looks so forward to playing games and having fun. Our first board game together was 'Pretty, Pretty Princess'. Of course, she won!" Each advancement helps Jamielyn find her own special path along the road to a more fulfilling life. And her Rancho team of doctors, nurses, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and recreation therapists is right there with her every step of the way, "We are all so thankful that we have another chance to help this wonderful little girl shine," said Rancho Chief of Pediatrics Luis Montes, MD. "How lucky we are to come to work at Rancho each day and see Jamielyn progress towards her own independence and conquering her disability. She is such an inspiration to us all!" For further information, call the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at (562) 401-7053 or visit rancho.org, facebook.com/rancholosamigosrehab or twitter.com/ranchorehab.

********** Published: April 12, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 52