Dr T.S. Park
Since Harlie's diagnosis, I spent every night researching every possible cure and treatment for cerebral palsy. What I found was there is no cure but many treatment options available. Early intervention was key but I felt there had to be more. If cerebral palsy is the most common disability in the world, surely someone has found a way to do more than just therapy.
One night, I found it. Neurosurgeon Dr T.S. Park at St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri USA performed Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy on adults and children with spastic cerebral palsy. The more I read, the more I felt it was too good to be true. It seemed like some sort of miracle. But if it was as amazing as I was reading, why had I been researching for months, visiting specialists and still not hear a word about it?
I joined the SDR St Louis Facebook group and asked that exact question. I wanted to know why only good things were reported about SDR and I couldn't find any negative experiences. I asked other families to honestly list the negatives. Out of over 60 comments on my post, each person said the only regret is that they didn't do it sooner. Every single aspect of their life or their child's life had improved beyond belief.
Scrolling through the Facebook group, I noticed many families and patients posing questions relating to the surgery or post operative therapy. Each question was answered by Dr Park. He was an active member on the page offering advice and connecting with his patients on a personal level.
SDR was available in Australia at the time of my research. Why would I bother travelling to the other side of the world when I could save the stress and book the surgery right here in OZ? So I began weighing up the pros and cons. Why was Dr Park considered "the best" in the world? What made him so different to other neurosurgeons? After reading his extensive 49 page resume listing his many qualifications I discovered he was no ordinary doctor. He has dedicated his life to changing the lives of others. Dr Park has headed many research projects, been published in medical journals and written books on neurology and cerebral palsy. His work spans decades and he is highly regarded in the worldwide medical community. In September 2017, while we were getting ready to head home to a new life after Harlie's surgery, the state of Missouri announced the first annual Dr T.S. Park Day to honour his incredible talent and contributions
What I loved most about Dr Park, was Harlie was not another number. She was not just a patient on the list of many to see that week. To him, Harlie was an individual who needed his help. Although Dr Park has performed SDR surgery on over 3,500 people from around the world, he knows each and every one of them. When Dr Park and his team visited Sydney Australia in February 2018, we jumped at the chance to have a follow up consultation with him. As soon as we entered the room, it felt like visiting an old friend. He remembered Harlie's time in St Louis almost better than I did. All the ups and downs she experienced, he could recall. This was no different for the other 34 Australian children he saw that week.
Travelling to the other side of the world was a massive effort, but I would do it all again if I had to. When it comes to your children, you only want the best and Dr Park is exactly that. We are so fortunate to have had this opportunity and I can honestly say I have zero regrets. Thank you, Dr Park, for changing Harlie's life forever.
Watch a tribute to Dr Park here: