Cerebral Palsy Patient Has Long History with Children's

Matthew DooleyAfter being a regular patient at Children's for most of his life, 19-year-old Matthew Dooley feels comfortable enough with his doctors to make some unusual requests.

One of the most recent requests Matthew has sent via text or email is one doctors don't usually receive from patients: to go skydiving.

"I have been eight times in the past year and a half," he said. "I like the feeling that I am flying."

From the Start

Matthew was born 11 weeks premature. It wasn't until he was almost 1 year old that he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects the communication between the brain and muscles.

His mother, Suzanne, said the reason for the delayed diagnosis was the fact that Matthew's doctors thought any developmental delays were a result of his adjusted age. But once he was diagnosed, he was referred to Children's right away.

That began a lifelong relationship between Matthew and his medical staff.

"There was a while there I think we were there every year," Suzanne said.

History of Procedures

Throughout his time with Children's, Matthew has received a laundry list of procedures to increase function and decrease muscle tone, most of which were performed by Robert W. Bruce Jr., M.D., Medical Director of the Orthopaedic Neuromuscular Program, and Barbara Weissman, M.D., a Pediatric Neurologist.

Yet neither Matthew nor Suzanne ever dreaded coming to Children's. Matthew even said he enjoyed having surgery because of the attention he got from the nurses.

"No matter what he has gone through there, he loves Egleston hospital," Suzanne said. "He liked to go and flirt with all the nurses. He always said the nurses used to spoil him rotten."

Matthew responded: "They still do. They are just so caring. They help you with anything you need. That is a really big thing."

On top of attentive nurses, Matthew was able to receive all the care he needed as he grew up at Children's.

When he was 8 years old, Matthew had two hip surgeries and a muscle lengthening procedure. When he was 14 years old, he had a baclofen pump installed, which delivers medicine to the spine to help decrease spasticity, a common symptom of cerebral palsy.

At age 15, he had surgery on his feet to remove bunions that were causing him pain despite being in a wheelchair.

Through it all, Matthew said he appreciated the way Dr. Bruce and Dr. Weissman made him a part of the conversation.

"They made me feel like I'm needed," he said.

Sky's the Limit

Suzanne said the Dooley family has no plans for further treatment and hopes her son never sees the inside of an operating room again.

Matthew plans to continue skydiving and to continue asking his doctors to join him. Dr. Bruce, who is a pilot, supports Matthew's desire to jump out of planes for entertainment, but he has no plans on joining him.

"As much as I love Matthew, I can't think of any reason to jump out of a perfectly good airplane," he said. "I'd be happy to fly him, though."