For children with severe physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, muscle contractions often make it difficult and painful to stretch their limbs. To measure their heights, UNC Children's Hospital doctors used to stretch the children's limbs on a flat table and use a tape measure to record them.
“That is both a really uncomfortable process for the kids to be stretched out like that, and at the same time is a really unreliable process that doesn’t give a very accurate measurement of their actual height,” said Neal DeJong, a professor in general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at UNC.
To solve issues like this, Carolina for the Kids, a UNC organization dedicated to supporting the families and children of Chapel Hill, raised money to give two specialized grants to UNC Children’s Hospital last month.
The grants will fund two separate projects improving treatment and conditions for children admitted into the hospital. One project is looking to better the hospital’s ability to measure the height of children with physical disabilities, and the other is focused on children with inflammatory bowel disease.
DeJong received the grant for UNC Children’s Hospital. He said the CFTK grant is already accomplishing its goal.
“One of the cool ways I think this project aligns with what CFTK wants to do is that it provides a direct benefit to children and families that we’re already seeing in the hospital,” DeJong said.
UNC Children’s used the $1,650 grant for the height-measuring project to purchase five knee calipers, devices that provide a more comfortable and accurate way of measuring disabled children’s heights. The knee calipers can make a height projection based only on the measurement from a child’s ankle to their knee, while making adjustments based on the physical qualities of the patient. The accuracy of these height projections is very important, as it can dictate things like dieting and feeding requirements.
Carolina for the Kids, formerly known as Dance Marathon, raises this money through a variety of efforts and programs on campus year-round.
Leslie Nelson, executive director at UNC Children’s Office of External Affairs, is an adviser and collaborator with CFTK. She had a child in UNC Children’s Hospital for a time, giving her a personal connection to the organization. Through CFTK's weekly Parents Night Out program, her family, along with many others in the hospital, were given hot meals.
“I still get chills when I talk about my son’s time at the hospital even though it was eleven years ago,” Nelson said. “What they’re doing as an organization makes a world of difference.”
Nelson said that options for future grants are still being discussed between UNC Children’s Hospital and CFTK. Hannah Dix, executive director of CFTK, said that with the 20th anniversary of Dance Marathon approaching this spring, the organization has a few tricks up its sleeve for upcoming events.
“I can’t reveal all our secrets yet,” Dix said. “But I definitely encourage everyone to sign up because we have some really big things coming.”
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