By Steven Penn
Kyle Law is a normal 15-year-old Ben Davis High School student in many ways. He enjoys playing basketball and football with his friends and is looking forward to his summer break.
However, Kyle lives with a disease that makes it difficult for him to be active with his friends — sickle cell anemia.
According to Center for Disease Control (CDC) information, sickle cell anemia is a lifelong blood disorder that affects an estimated 90-to-100,000 people in the United States alone. It is also estimated that it occurs in one out of every 500 African-American births.
Justin Becker, one of the Hendricks Regional Health physical therapists who worked with him, said Kyle has also been diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the hip, which was caused by sickle cell anemia.
“(He has) sickle cell anemia that resulted in avascular necrosis, which is basically a thinning of the (hip) bone,” Becker said. “The bone is not getting good blood supply.”
Becker said the goal of his physical therapy was to get the muscles around the joint stronger and to keep him active as much as possible.
Becker said Kyle’s therapy hit a snag early on, when his family’s insurance wouldn’t cover the aquatic therapy his doctor had recommended.
“He’s not really on a weight-bearing restriction, but they don’t want any aggressive running or sport activities,” Becker said. “The doctor wanted to do aquatic therapy in the pool. His insurance didn’t cover it so we did the Alter G (anti-gravity treadmill) instead. That’s how we kind of got around it.”
The Alter G treadmill can take off 1 percent to 80 percent of one’s body weight to reduce stress through the body.
“We started him out at roughly 50 percent of his weight of the Alter G,” Becker said. “(We) started out roughly around five minutes and then gradually progressed from there — meaning time and body weight. We slowly starting increasing the time and increasing the weight and I think we got up to … (around) 75 to 80 percent of his weight.”
Kyle said he enjoyed being able to cut loose and run on the treadmill after he got used to it.
Becker said in addition to using the treadmill, he also worked with Kyle on a lot of other strengthening, non-weight bearing exercises.
Kyle’s mother Nicole said it’s been a difficult challenge for her son at times to not be able to be as active as he would like.
“It was recommended probably about a year ago and then probably about six to eight months ago to absolutely restrict (physical activity),” Nicole said.
She added that the amount of pain limits what Kyle can and can’t do.
Kyle said he still enjoys playing sports with his friends, as much as he can.
“Sometimes I’ll play basketball,” he said. “I just want to run down the court. I would (also) play football. I still do the things I used to do, but it’s not as intense as it used to be. I used to run a lot when I’m playing basketball and football, but now I (can’t as much).”
He said his friends know to be careful around him and he conceded he probably is a little more active than he should be.
“They don’t want me to run, but I still do,” Kyle said.
Kyle’s three-month physical therapy regimen ended about a month ago, and Nicole said they are doing as much as they can at home.
“Stretches will help him when he’s feeling tight or in some pain,” she said. “I could tell, and I shared with the doctor, that his pain is coming back as a result of not having the therapy. So it is something that we’re really going to have to do at home on a continual basis, because we see the difference in not keeping it up. His pain is increasing.”
Looking to the future, Becker said a lot of times in cases like Kyle’s, a hip replacement surgery can be beneficial, but it’s advantageous to put it off as long as possible.
“Sometimes these kids will end up with a hip replacement or something like that,” he said. “He’s a grade-four avascular, which means the bone structure is very weak. That’s the big thing with him, is because he’s young, he’s 15, his body is still growing. If he would break a hip now, it’s pretty hard to replace that with his bone still growing. That’s the big fear with him doing excess activity. Down the road, I would say a hip replacement would probably be inevitable, but when that may be is a little bit harder to say.”
Nicole said Kyle has asked his doctor about getting the hip replacement surgery and got pretty much the same answer.
Nicole said over the summer, she will continue to work with Kyle at home and has plans to visit the pool often, which will act as therapy as well.
She added that being around males in the medical field may have helped give Kyle an idea for a career.
“He had male therapists and (he said) it was nice to see males in the medical professions and that this gives (him) some options … for (his) future,” she said.
Kyle said he’s already got an idea of what he wants to be when he gets older.
“An anesthesiologist,” he said.
For more information or to set up a free 10 minute demo on the Alter G treadmill, contact the Hendricks Regional Health Physical Therapy Department in Avon at 272-4186.