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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Physical Therapy Helps Chinese Girl Regain Ability to Walk

International patient Meihui Wang rolled into the University of Chicago Medicine in a wheelchair and came out walking tall. In early November, the nine-year-old returned home to family and friends in Shenyang, China, who were elated and astounded at her progress over 10 weeks of physical therapy at the medical center.

"I am happy because I can walk like a normal person now," Meihui said.

Surgery to remove a vascular tumor in her calf muscle at three years of age left her with scar tissue over the muscle, which prevented her left leg from growing properly. Two years ago, she could no longer put her left heel all the way down or straighten her knee, causing her to walk on tiptoe with bent knee.

"We did not expect her to get better in such a short time frame."

Two years of physical therapy in China failed to help. Then a friend of her father's business partner encouraged the family to visit UChicago Medicine. Meihui and her mother, Rui Jia, came here for two weeks in June 2015 for consultations with pediatric surgeon Jessica Kandel, MD, and interventional pain specialist Magdalena Anitescu, MD, PhD. In September, Meihui began 10 weeks of physical therapy with Colleen Peyton, PT, DPT, PCS.

The physical therapist used a series of 12 casts to help straighten Meihui's knee and bring her heel closer to the ground. "At first, she was reluctant to stand because she was afraid of the pain. But after a few days, she would walk around the physical therapy room without being asked, just because she could," Peyton said.

Meihui with physical therapist Colleen Peyton, PT, DPT, PCS.

Meihui with physical therapist Colleen Peyton, PT, DPT, PCS.

Jia would videotape each session for friends and family back home. "My husband could not believe it when he saw the video of her putting her foot down flat," she said. "We did not expect her to get better in such a short time frame."

During their stay, International Patient Coordinator Yaling Tan provided interpretive services, as well as transportation to and from the airport and appointments. 

"We never imagined we would be so well taken care of during our stay," Jia said.

Meihui received therapy two times per week. In between, she had daily quizzes, practiced piano and did her physical therapy exercises. She also tried new foods like mashed potatoes, which she liked, and spaghetti, which she did not.

She currently has the full range of motion expected for a girl her age, but Meihui continues to wear leg braces day and night in China. She also gets physical therapy to strengthen her leg muscle. Meihui and her mother plan to return to Chicago in a few months for a checkup and a visit with their new friends at the University of Chicago Medicine.