Fighting Cancer and Learning to Walk Again

Meet Andrew: Age 14, Inpatient Rehabilitation

For Andrew Wade and his family, a single phrase serves as a reminder to keep focused on the positive.

“You’ve got to crawl before you can walk again.”

Last December, the 14-year-old baseball player from Columbus, Ga., was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Surgeons removed the tumor from his spinal cord, but the pressure the tumor had exerted on his spine left Andrew paralyzed from the waist down.

Shortly after surgery, he began chemotherapy and rehab in Columbus. His family knows that they’re in for a marathon, not a sprint with his recovery, but everyone is hopeful that he will walk again.

“I told Andrew at Christmas that all I want is to see him wiggle his toes,” his father, Tripp, said. 

Progress was slow but steady, and in early January, Andrew called his father over and told him that his present was finally ready. Beaming, Andrew moved his toes a few times. 

“Better late than never, Dad,” he said.

Making Progress

Andrew Wade in Inpatient RehabilitationFive months later, Andrew arrived at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to begin radiation and continue rehab through our inpatient rehabilitation program

“The care team was huge,” Tripp said. “We saw doctors, nurses, techs, physical therapists, occupational therapists, a chaplain, a child life specialist and even a social worker.” 

The team worked together to build a specially tailored plan to support Andrew’s recovery.

As an athlete, Andrew was especially excited about the equipment at Children’s that would help him on his journey to walk again. Children’s has a body weight support system, a harness that lifts patients to take weight off the legs, making moving easier. 

“Even before we got here, Andrew was talking about another device, the functional electrical stimulation (FES) cycle,” Tripp said. “It’s done him a world of good, and it’s starting to wake his leg muscles up.”

Life in Inpatient Rehabilitation

Andrew Wade in Inpatient Rehabilitation

Every morning, Joshua Vova, M.D., Medical Director of Rehabilitation Services, and his team stop by to discuss Andrew’s progress. 

“Dr. Vova tries to keep it fun for everybody,” Tripp said. “On Monday, he wore a Superman cape, and the kids loved it.”

Kristen Wagner, P.T., D.P.T., his primary physical therapist, works closely with Andrew every day to improve his movement. 

“Andrew has such a great attitude. He is hardworking and self-motivated, and he has made great gains in his leg strength during his inpatient rehab stay,” Kristen said.

When he’s not getting chemo or in therapy, Andrew is a typical eighth-grader. The hospital teachers at Children’s help make sure Andrew stays on top of his studies. Doing homework while fighting cancer and learning how to walk again may seem like a tall order, but Andrew is passionate about getting back on his feet.

Staying Strong

Through all of his cancer treatment, Andrew remains focused on his physical rehabilitation. He recently was able to crawl for a short distance in the inpatient rehab gym.

“Even with the chemo, there’s only been one day he’s not been able to get out bed and get to therapy,” Tripp said. “He wants to do it because he wants to walk again more than anything.”