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Kinley Blazes Her Trail



When the Parker family stepped off the elevator into Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo, their eyes lit up. Toddler Kinley pointed to the big tree in the middle of this colorful place. Parents Holly and James noticed the staff’s friendly welcome.

“We instantly felt the warmth of Sanford Children’s. So uplifting and different from any hospital we’d ever experienced,” says Holly. “We knew it was going to be a good day.”

Good, but not easy…

On this day in late March 2012, Kinley Parker would undergo a treatment they hoped would help her walk.

“She was 18 months old and had never even tried,” says Holly.

Treating clubfoot

Kinley’s inability to walk stemmed from clubfoot, a birth defect that affects about 1 in every 1,000 babies in the U.S. Kinley’s case was especially severe. Both feet twisted inward. Without treatment, she’d never stand, walk or run normally.

The lengthy process to correct Kinley’s feet began shortly after her birth in Grand Forks, N.D. Treatments included casting, bracing and surgeries. All brought key improvements, but still no walking.

When pain emerged, Kinley’s doctor in Grand Forks called on Dr. William Klava, Sanford physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. Dr. Klava traveled to Grand Forks for an in-person consultation.

“Right away Kinley crawled over to him and wanted to sit on his lap,” says Holly. “He was like a grandpa to her. We trusted him.”

Dr. Klava recommended the therapeutic use of Botox to relax the muscles causing the pain. But the injections can be difficult for children. Dr. Klava knew Sanford Children’s had the expertise and resources, including child life specialists, to make the treatment as easy as possible.

An experience like no other

On the day of the Botox treatment, several child friendly steps came first including:

  • Playtime! Sanford child life specialist Megan spent time playing with Kinley and getting to know her. Kinley got to select a favorite toy to take with her to the procedure room.
  • Cotton candy! Kinley chose cotton-candy chapstick to put on the small mask that would deliver nitrous oxide during the treatment. Nitrous oxide is a safe, low-level sedation that helps take the stress out of injections and other treatments.
  • The comfort of parents. James and Holly learned they’d be able to stay at Kinley’s side throughout the entire treatment.
  • The Botox treatment consisted of four injections in each leg. All went well. “Megan was a big part of it,” says James. “She was at the head of Kinley’s bed the whole time and was constantly distracting her.”

    The next 10 days would reveal whether the treatment was effective for Kinley.

    An Easter miracle

    For nine days there was no noticeable difference. Then came the tenth.

    “It was the evening before Easter and we were at my parents’ house,” recalls Holly. “My dad had M&M’s in his hand. Kinley saw them and just took off walking! For the next 45 minutes she kept going back and forth from one person to the next. Every time she reached someone she’d hug them.”

    Older sister Lexie described the moment as the family’s Easter miracle. It continued for three months.

    “Kinley kept saying, ‘I walk, I walk, I walk,’” And she did. She walked everywhere,” says Holly. “It was amazing to see!”

    Support for an ongoing process

    In July Kinley started tripping because one foot began to invert again -- an ongoing challenge in treating clubfoot. Another straightening surgery took place in August in Grand Forks. The hope is she’ll be on her feet again in a matter of months.

    Kinley doesn’t let this challenge or any other stop her from being a kid. A huge Minnie Mouse fan, she loves swimming, throwing balls and launching food. “Mac and cheese is a favorite,” says James. “She gets a big grin on her face and there it goes.”

    The coming years will include more treatments. Kinley forges ahead.

    “Nothing limits her,” says Holly. “She’s a kid who doesn’t give up.”

    The Parkers don’t give up either. They appreciate the excellent help and support they’ve received from family, friends and their community of Warren, Minn. They also appreciate the teamwork of the many medical professionals involved in Kinley’s care, including Sanford East Grand Forks.

    Burning her own path

    It’s a Friday morning in late summer. Kinley and her sisters visit the fire station in Warren where their dad, uncle and grandpa serve as volunteer firemen.

    With one leg in a purple cast and the other in pink, she sits up tall in the driver’s seat of a bright red fire truck. She grips the steering wheel and never stops smiling.

    Look out world! Here comes Kinley!

    Posted Date: September 2012

    Kinley Blazes Her Trail

    Despite many helpful treatments, Kinley Parker still couldn’t walk at 18 months. See what happens when she comes to Sanford Children’s Hospital. You’ll be on your feet cheering!