The Return of Smiling Eyes



Wearing his Minnesota Twins T-shirt, Lincoln Deibert looks like a boy of summer as he zooms a fire truck across the living room carpet. Months from now he’ll be in the backyard building castles in his sandbox. Welcome to the full, fun life of a 5-year-old. Three years ago, his parents, Carla and Josh, wondered if this day would ever come.

A dramatic change

Lincoln’s seizures began shortly before he turned 2. “They could happen anytime, even when he was playing,” recalls Carla. “And they increased in frequency -- up to 100 a day.”

Protecting Lincoln from injury became a top priority, along with figuring out the problem. Extensive testing, consultations with specialists and second opinions led to no known cause for the seizures.

“That was a frustrating diagnosis, but we were encouraged to know that children who have epilepsy of unknown cause often outgrow it,” says Carla.

Lincoln needed strong medications to control the seizures and prevent permanent brain damage. “We have videos of him when he was 3, but we rarely watch them,” says Carla. “His face is expressionless, he doesn’t talk, he can’t walk and his hands are turned inward so he can’t grasp anything. It’s so sad.”

The medications were successful, but severely hampered Lincoln’s personality and development. “Not even his eyes smiled anymore,” says Carla. “We felt like we’d lost our little boy.”

In time, Lincoln adjusted to the medications and they could safely be decreased. But how would he catch up? Testing at Sanford Children’s Development Evaluation Clinic indicated he was a year behind in his development.

Call on pediatric therapy

In the next several months, the Deiberts discovered what many families have discovered: Well-structured pediatric therapy can make a profound difference. Depending on the specific need, therapy can prevent disability, relieve pain, restore function and restore abilities to carry out activities of daily living. Kids can play again, interact and enjoy life!

Twice a week Lincoln attended outpatient pediatric therapy at Sanford Children’s in Fargo, ND. He’d have back-to-back sessions with therapists who worked as a team, ensuring all sessions led to the same goals. A top goal: begin preschool. Much had to happen first:

* Speech therapist Jaime Johnson worked with Lincoln on “functional communication,” including expressing needs and answering questions appropriately. “He was a hard worker and always willing to participate,” she says. “And funny. He always came up with something to make me laugh.”

* Physical therapist Shauna Lonskiworked with Lincoln on muscle strength, balance and coordination. “He was fearful initially, but by the end he was a brave little boy,” she says. “I’ll never forget the first time he rode a bike with training wheels around the therapy gym.”

* Occupational therapist Casey Strand worked with Lincoln on using scissors, drawing circles, dressing himself and grasping crayons. “He always wanted to do more,” she says. “And his parents were super-dedicated in doing at-home therapy assignments.”

Within months Lincoln caught up. Says Carla: “His therapists knew exactly how to make therapy fun and productive -- something we as parents never could have accomplished. It was amazing to see his full smile come back.”

Josh noticed how Lincoln’s confidence increased. “It’s great to see him try new things,” he says.

Lincoln graduated from therapy in February 2010. Today he leads the charge with his two younger siblings, attends preschool at Eagles Education Center in Fargo and loves playing with other kids.

Paying it forward

Since 2008 Carla and Josh, both employees at State Bank & Trust of Fargo, have donated their State Bank & Trust “Pay it Forward” dollars to Sanford Children’s. In 2010 they specified the Pediatric Therapy Department.

“We wanted to help them buy equipment, materials or whatever is needed to help other kids down the road,” says Carla. “We’re forever indebted and grateful to that team of therapists for bringing our happy little boy back to us.”

Learn more about Sanford Children's.

Posted Date: January 2011

The Return of Smiling Eyes

You’d never know it by watching him today, but at age 3, Lincoln Deibert could barely function -- no facial expressions, no talking, no walking. See how pediatric therapy turned his life around!