B.C.’s pediatric system assigns teams to deal with the health, financial and other needs of children with cerebral palsy. At age 18, they are cut adrift to muddle through an unfriendly adult system that spreads programs across several ministries
At age 18, Lauren Stinson faced the typical issues of people her age — social life, educational choices, finding a career. But Stinson, who has cerebral palsy, also faced another challenge — adapting to life without a medical support team.
As a child, Stinson had a host of medical and social services professionals working to manage her health. But B.C.’s pediatric medical system cuts people loose at age 18 and there is no adult equivalent in B.C. to that team-based pediatric system.
Stinson, now 24, was born two months prematurely after being deprived of oxygen in the womb. She was diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy at birth, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects her entire body.
“I couldn’t do a sit-up to save my life,” said Stinson, an art and culture major at Simon Fraser University. “I also have poor control over how much pressure I put on my joints. I love to use pastels for my art — sometimes when I focus too hard I snap them.”
Cerebral palsy is a neurodevelopmental disorder that occurs when the developing brain is damaged during pregnancy, delivery, or in the first several years of a child’s life. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and include impairment with muscle tone, fine motor functions, reflexes, and balance.
Depending on the severity of the disability, people with cerebral palsy can have a wide range of health challenges: dislocated hips, scoliosis, gastrointestinal issues, arthritis and pain, which may require numerous surgeries and extensive rehabilitation.
One in 500 children are born with cerebral palsy in B.C. In total, it affects about 10,000 people in the province.