Hope Palmer loves the color purple. She has a contagious smile, plays hard and is determined to keep up with her three older sisters.
Seven-year-old Hope may sound like a typical kid, but she has overcome many obstacles. Born in China with multiple health problems, she underwent major back surgery before coming to America. What started as a short-term stay with the Palmer family of Mogadore turned into a lifetime commitment. “We adopted our other three daughters from China. We planned on temporarily hosting Hope until another family adopted her – but she just seemed to fit with us,” said her dad, Jim. “We’re celebrating her first birthday as part of our family in March, and she’ll turn 8 years old in May.”
Hope is hemiplegic, which means she is partially paralyzed of the left side of her body, and she has cerebral palsy. Akron Children’s Orthopedic Surgeon William Schrader, MD, operated on Hope in 2017 to extend her left Achilles tendon and help with leg alignment. “She can walk and keep a shoe on – both are firsts for her,” Hope’s mom, Tammy, shared. “She spent seven years in an orphanage, so it’s more than time for her to shine.”
Hope wears a brace on her left leg to improve stabilization. She receives physical and occupational therapy at the Akron Children’s rehabilitation office in Medina. “We incorporate a lot of therapeutic play into Hope’s treatment, so she works hard and has fun at the same time,” said Physical Therapist Renee Parsons. “We taught Tammy and Jim activities they can do at home, so Hope can stretch and exercise between therapy sessions.”
Occupational Therapist Laura King works with Hope on fine motor skills such as stacking blocks with her left hand, placing puzzle pieces and banging on a toy drum by moving her left forearm. During one exercise, Hope stretches her arm to take a plastic frog from Laura, transfers the frog from one hand to another behind her head and places the frog on a table. “Those movements work Hope’s shoulders, so she’ll be able to tackle a task like combing her hair,” Laura explained. “The exercise also helps with elbow movement and improving finger flexibility.”
Hope has made great progress so far. She’s learning how to pedal and steer an adaptive bike, for example, so she’ll be able to ride with her sisters. She’s also learning English, naming colors and alphabet letters during occupational therapy.
Hope enjoys therapy so much that she literally cheers when her parents pull into the Medina parking lot. “Renee and Laura do a great job of encouraging Hope to want to do more,” Jim said. “From Renee and Laura to Dr. Schrader and the surgical staff, it’s been a full-blown team effort to help Hope. Everyone does a phenomenal job. They have hearts of flesh, not stone.”
Overcoming obstacles is in the Palmer family DNA. Hope’s oldest sister Nikki came to America with rickets, a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency. Sister Jesse, a premature baby, weighed just 2 pounds. Sister Gloria is missing fingers and toes, but that doesn’t stop her from playing the piano and dancing. “Gloria says ‘fingers are overrated,’” Jim chuckled. “Our four daughters are amazing. They have taught us that there are no limitations as to what they can do.”
Tammy and Jim are self-employed, which gives them the flexibility they need to take Hope to appointments and do at-home therapy with daily therapeutic play. “We are thankful for the help that we have received at Akron Children’s – with all of the expertise and services in one spot,” Tammy offered. “I am not saying things are easy at the moment; our strong faith in God sees us through. We know we still have a mountain to climb in learning and addressing Hope’s needs, but we are so thankful for every step that gets us closer.”