MEMPHIS, Tennessee - Chemotherapy and radiation can take its toll on the body. When children are used to running around and playing with their friends, the treatment and its after effects can be devastating.
At St. Jude Children's Research Hospital the facility has a rehabilitation center to help their littlest patients get back on their feet.
Hula hoops, hockey sticks and even parallel bars make for a great playground, but at St. Jude it is more than play. This is where children at St. Jude follow a strict rehabilitation.
"All the kids have a need for rehab in that aspect because of the harsh side effects that the chemo has, as well as the radiation," explained physical therapist Angela Corr, who helps the children rebuild their strength.
"Children, I mean, they run, they jump, they play, that's what makes them happy, that's what kids do so when they can't do those things, that's devastating," said Corr.
If one of Angela's patients is having trouble walking, she'll use the parallel bars or stairs - anything to help the children get back on their feet. She helps the children with activities like walking stairs, something they may have to do routinely when they return home.
Each patient is first evaluated to test their strength, then the staff and patient together set a goal.
"A favorite part of my job is when kids come back for follow up and show me what they can do - nothing beats that," noted Corr.
The rehab isn't all hard work – Corr tries to integrate some fun, too.
"You know they get a lot of painful stuff while they're here,” said Corr. “Sometimes they get poked with needles - that has to be done, that's part of the process - but when kids comes here, i want them to kind of forget about those things and just have fun."
Like any other children, the patients at the rehab center like their toys, but a hockey stick is more than just a game there. Ut can be motivation to a child who may be fatigued to get back to their normal life.
After rehab the staff encourages siblings and patients to learn some of the exercises as well to help the child when they leave the hospital. Rehab doesn't just involve physical therapy, the staff also works on hearing, occupational therapy and language skills.
The key to rehabilitation is troubleshooting the problems early and look for signs of weakness. Corr understands her patients have much to overcome, but is in awe at the same time.
"Every day I come in and I get to work with these amazing children and their families. I mean these kids are diagnosed and some of them are terminal and it's just amazing that their outlook on life."
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