Worthington girl fulfilling dancing dream
WORTHINGTON -- Like every little girl, 5-year old Maddison Veen, daughter of Ken and Cristy Veen, had dreams of becoming a ballerina.
Diagnosed with a type of cerebral palsy, Maddison had a unique set of challenges to overcome. But after months of dedication and practice, Maddison will put on her tutu Monday for her first dance recital.
Maddison was born three months prematurely with a grade three brain bleed caused by her early birth.
"She stayed two months -- a little over two months -- in the NICU at Sanford in Sioux Falls," Ken Veen explained.
In addition to the brain bleed, Maddison had spastic diplegia, a kind of cerebral palsy that affects the muscle coordination in Maddison's lower extremities. As a result, Maddison's muscles are extremely tight and in need of constant stretching.
"You know where you have the knot on the inside of your foot? That was on the ground when they started," Cristy said. "So they had to literally turn (her feet) to fit. Because there was no stability, we had to add support for stability."
Maddison started working with Prairie Rehabilitation and Fitness physical therapists Tasha Knothe and Troy Van Orman, also one of the owners of Prairie Rehab, to improve her muscle movement and coordination.
"We consistently increased and decreased her physical therapy," Cristy said. "Each time we reached a stumble, we increased her amount of physical therapy. When we had a breakthrough, we decreased her physical therapy."
Maddison started wearing braces that went up to her knees and using a reverse walker to help her gain mobility.
"We progressed from having a harness on the walker to walking without the harness," Ken said. "Then she was in the walker for quite some time, and then was able to walk with assistance, but she would walk real stiff."
Cristy and Ken said they remember the moment when Maddison first started walking on Dec. 20, 2012.
They had been encouraging her to walk for a long time -- both at physical therapy as well as at home, where they would sit five steps across from one another on the floor and use chocolate as an incentive. Finally, Maddison decided she was ready to walk on her own.
"We walked in the door one night and had a little walker by the door for her to grab," Ken remembered. "We told her to go hang up her coat, and she just took off without (her walker). And she hasn't looked back since."
"It was a complete shock," Cristy added.
Van Orman attributed Maddison's success to her determination and her parents' dedication.
"Maddison is an excellent example of how determination, motivation and hard work has got her to a point where she is basically walking independently and continuing to not be limited by a disability," he said. "She doesn't allow that, and she continues to try and doesn't have any limitations on herself.
"One of the things I love about working with kids is that it's tough to go home at the end of the day and complain when you're working with kids who have limitations and are excited to walk five feet and are so proud of themselves," Van Orman added.
Currently, Maddison only sees Van Orman every other month and is doing her physical therapy with her parents at home.
"It's a constant thing -- every day or every other day we're working with her and stretching," Ken said of the home physical therapy he and Cristy do with Maddison.
Additionally, Maddison started dance this fall after telling her parents she wanted to be a "barina."
Van Orman encouraged the Veens to look into a dance program for Maddison. When Robyn Murphy opened Shining Fame Performance in Worthington in September, she agreed to work with her.
When she started, she was very timid to do anything," Murphy said. "She would try, but she couldn't jump or stand on one leg very well. Halfway through the year, she stopped wearing braces because she progressed so far.
"Now she can jump on one foot and do turns. She does the best she can do for her body, and she keeps trying and getting better."
Murphy said she is pleased with Maddison's progress and all she has accomplished in her first year of dance.
"It's unbelievable to know that when she started dance, she hadn't been walking for more than a year," she added.
Maddison loves dance so much that her parents have already signed her up for dance again next year, adding jazz to her ballet and tap classes.
In spite of the spastic diplegia, Ken and Cristy said they don't view Maddison has having special needs and try to treat her like a normal child.
"We don't hold her back," Ken said. "We make her try everything. We don't want her to get singled out."
Both Van Orman and Murphy praised the dedication and efforts of Ken and Cristy.
"They saw the opportunity and wanted her to try it and see if it was something she could do," Murphy said. "They have always been supportive. They believe in her and encouraged her to get to where she is today."
"I always told (Ken and Cristy), 'Don't get tricked into the limitation that we see. Don't allow what's on paper to affect your expectations of Maddison,'" Van Orman added. "I've worked with enough people that I've learned not to have a limit set on what I would expect or not expect children to do."