Pediatric Physical Therapy helps toddler with arthritis walk
Courtesy of Lindsey Klyn Photography & Design
Photo courtesy of Lindsey Klyn Photography & Design
Courtesy of Lindsey Klyn Photography & Design
Photo courtesy of Lindsey Klyn Photography & Design

After college sweethearts Tyler and Colette Schippers were married in 2016, they found out several months later they’d be adding a third member to their family. Kinsley Marie Schippers joyfully joined their family on August 17, 2017. Kinsley was a relaxed and mellow baby, so when these new parents started to notice a change in her behavior come April, they began to wonder if something more was wrong.

The first signs came when their daughter no longer wanted to stand up and would lift her right leg up when they tried to help. She also started to fuss when Colette would put her right leg into her sleeper at night. At first, Colette chalked Kinsley’s behavior up to being tired and a little fussy, but over time, the fussiness turned into a cry anytime they’d bend Kinsley’s right knee. They knew something was wrong.

The Schippers took their 8-month-old to the doctor where an X-ray revealed fluid on Kinsley’s right knee. Originally, their doctor wondered if a virus has settled in her joint, which he anticipated would work its way out in a week.

Kinsley’s pain persisted after that week, so the Schippers were sent to an orthopedic doctor. More X-rays and an MRI were ordered to rule out a bone or joint infection. The results revealed something different. This doctor feared Kinsley had a form of arthritis he had never seen in someone so young. An appointment with Dr. Sandy Hong, a rheumatology doctor at the University of Iowa, confirmed it. Kinsley was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile arthritis in her right knee, elbow, and wrist at just nine months old.

“For me, this diagnosis meant fear,” shared Colette. “It meant fear of not knowing when Kinsley would be able to stand, fear that she would live with restrictions, and fear that she would be in pain forever. Tyler and I would have given anything to switch places with her.”

At this point, Kinsley’s elbow and knee were so contracted they wouldn’t straighten. She couldn’t bear weight, let alone stand on her own. Doctors prescribed two immunosuppressant injections a week to help her body not attack her joints. After some movement was restored, physical therapy marked the next step. A friend recommended Whitney Vander Veen at Kinetic Edge who specializes in pediatric physical therapy, and so their first visit was scheduled.

Whitney’s initial goals started small: get Kinsley to stand with two hands supporting her for one minute. Goals progressed from there to standing on her own and walking with support. Whitney used toys or games to motivate Kinsley and help her achieve these goals.

“I could tell right away when I met Kinsley that she was smart and that she would stand and move and walk when she wanted to,” shared Physical Therapist Whitney Vander Veen. “We just needed to provide the right motivation for her to make that choice and succeed.”

The ultimate goal was to get this 17-month-old girl to walk, a feat which is normally accomplished between months 9-14. Fittingly, Kinsley’s first steps occurred during a physical therapy appointment with Whitney.

Kinsley's first steps 

“Everyone, including the office gals, came to see Kinsley walk,” reminisced Colette. “The entire team at Kinetic Edge were her cheerleaders as she took more and more steps that day. Those steps meant so much to me… They meant a future full of hope and potential for Kinsley to do anything she sets her mind to.”

Kinetic Edge’s mission is to transform lives and restore hope through movement. Kinsley is another one of the stories that attribute how they’re using movement to bring about hope. The Schippers say Whitney has become like family to them. She gave their daughter “normal” in being able to walk and play with her friends at daycare and also gave them peace of mind as parents.

Kinsley loves her appointments with Whitney!
Kinsley loves her appointments with Whitney!

“It’s a sweet sight now when Kinsley walks into her appointment with her arms out to hug me at each therapy session now,” shared Whitney. “I love working with kids of all ages during my day. Kids can take a longer amount of time to reach their goals, so it makes it extra rewarding when they do and also forces me to think outside the box to motivate them to complete their activities during a session.”

At Kinsley’s last rheumatology appointment, doctors declared Kinsley in medical remission! This means the Schippers will continue to go for checkups every three months and continue with Kinsley’s injections for two years before tapering off and spacing appointments out further. Both the Schippers and their team of doctors will continue to monitor for flares, but all are confident Kinsley should now live a fairly normal life.

Any child with delays in their milestones, pain, an injury, or coordination problems can benefit from pediatric physical therapy. These symptoms sometimes occur for no apparent reason and other times can be the result of a specific diagnosis like polyarticular juvenile arthritis, cerebral palsy, or toe walking. To find out more about pediatric physical therapy at Kinetic Edge, call 641-676-3535.