Danica Crawford undertook a brave initiative in March of 2018.
She asked for donations so her five-year-old daughter Kira, who has cerebral palsy, could undergo potentially life-altering treatments.
The community responded.
In 21 months, donors from Kamloops and beyond have given more than $62,000 to help Kira heal and, with support from her mother, family and the community, Kira has made progress.
Now seven years old, Kira has undergone both of the therapies her mother planned to pursue when launching the campaign.
First up was a procedure in July 2018 called selective percutaneous myofascial lengthening (SPML), a surgical treatment intended to relieve spasticity in her legs.
Cerebral palsy often causes problems with body movement, posture, speech, swallowing and muscle stiffness.
“She gained a lot of core strength because that tension was relieved. So the rest of her body relaxed and she gained strength and stability,” Crawford said.
Those gains meant Kira could begin using a walker that she could navigate in and propel by herself, requiring only minor course corrections from mom or help getting around obstacles when the two are walking together.
“That is a huge gain just in itself,” Crawford said.
The surgery has also meant Kira can keep herself upright for longer.
Before, regular therapy over the course of a year allowed Kira to sit independently — although with her head hanging down — for up to eight seconds.
Now, with better neck strength and control and even further therapy in Toronto earlier this year, Kira can hold her head up by herself. In October, she sat by herself for one minute.
Over the past year, Kira has also improved her finer motor skills and can hold a pencil for up to five minutes, can bring her hand to her mouth and can hold her toys.
Crawford said she is able to speak more than she could before and can spend more time in her classroom at school.
“That’s a huge change, to be able to tolerate situations like that,” Crawford said. “Now she’s in the classroom, proving she knows her numbers and showing her cognition and understanding of what the other kids are learning.
“It’s huge she can express those things now.”
In August, Kira underwent her other planned therapy — stem cell treatment at Duke University in North Carolina.
The effects of that treatment have not necessarily taken effect just yet. Doctors told Crawford signs of improvement likely wouldn’t appear until after January.
But Crawford said Kira has seen “the foundations for some greater changes” already and the hope is for a 30 per cent overall improvement, not just in motor skills and communication, but in her whole life experience.
The treatment helps with the formation of new neural pathways, meaning Kira’s ongoing physical and cognitive therapies are that much more important in the coming months.
When KTW asked Crawford for an update on her daughter, she gathered her thoughts on what it has felt like to receive this much support from the community.
“It has been a challenge. As a family who is requesting support, you feel like every purchase you’re making … you second-guess it,” Crawford said. “Everything you do, you feel a little funny about. The fact is that Kira’s money is Kira’s money and it goes toward helping Kira directly.
“It’s also the most beautiful experience and I almost feel like being shown so much love and so much support … it has made life so beautiful for us. I feel like we’re really lucky to receive that way.”
Crawford said she is eager to pay it forward in the small ways she can — sharing Kira’s experience through social media and connecting with other families in similar situations.
“It’s been the most beautiful experience of my life and it’s been the most beneficial experience for Kira’s life. She would not be doing these things if it weren’t for the support people have given,” Crawford said.