Cheryl Hines Enthusiastic About 'Curbing' Cerebral Palsy
By John Morgan, Spotlight Health
nephew motivates her to raise awareness about cerebral palsy.
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
This past March Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines became a new
mom. While her baby girl is perfectly healthy, Hines will be helping raise awareness
about birth defects - particularly cerebral palsy (CP).
"It's stressful when you're pregnant because you can't help but think about
the health of your baby," says Hines, who will also provide a voice in the new
animated series Father of the Pride, debuting August 31 on NBC. "My sister-in-law
had a baby that was premature. She wasn't due for another three months and started
to feel strange. Since she had never been pregnant before, she wasn't really
sure how she should feel or what she was experiencing."
Despite being reassured by her physician that she was "fine," Hines says her
sister-in-law began to feel progressively worse over the course of the weekend.
"Finally on Sunday she went to the hospital," Hines recalls. "Again they told
her she was fine and were going to release her when the nurse suggested they
do a pelvic exam. When they did, they realized she was in labor and the baby
Hines' sister-in-law was immediately transferred to a hospital with a neonatal
intensive care unit where she delivered a two-pound baby boy.
"He really had to fight for his life," Hines says. "And what has made it especially
difficult is he has now been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He's a little over
one-year-old and has a feeding tube. It has been quite an adjustment for the
Cerebral palsy is a broad term that describes a group of chronic, non-progressive
conditions that result from damage to one or more specific areas of the developing
brain. This damage to the brain's motor areas prevents a person with CP from
being able to control movement and posture normally. According to United Cerebral
Palsy, approximately 764,000 Americans manifest one or more symptoms of the
Symptoms of CP can include:
- Muscle spasticity and involuntary movement
- Disturbances in gait or mobility
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Problems speaking
While researchers do not yet know the exact reason why CP occurs, approximately
70% of CP is present at birth, indicating some kind of disruption in brain development
in utero. About 20% of cases begin during or shortly after the birthing process,
while another 10% of CP manifests during early infancy. This "acquired" CP is
often linked to brain infections or head injury caused by car accidents, falls,
or child abuse.
"My sister-in-law did everything right during her pregnancy," states Hines,
who just taped a segment of Celebrity Poker Challenge where she played
for the March of Dimes. "She had great care and really took care of herself.
So it can happen to anyone and we don't know the reasons why."
But United Cerebral Palsy cautions that there are known risk factors for CP.
- Low birth weight and/or premature birth
- Prenatal hypoxia (lack of oxygen)
- Intrauterine ischemic events (strokes)
- Maternal infections such as German measles or toxoplasmosis
- Infections such as meningitis or encephalitis
- RH factor incompatibility between the mother and baby
"Prematurity is probably the greatest risk factor for CP," states Murray Goldstein,
a neurologist and director of the United Cerebral Palsy Research & Education
Foundation in Washington D.C. "Whatever is causing the uterine contractions
of prematurity is also affecting the infant's brain but we just don't completely
understand it yet."
But scientists are beginning to develop new ways of improving brain function
in people with CP.
"We cannot repair the damaged brain yet," Goldstein says. "But because the
brain is plastic - meaning it can create new pathways to perform functions typically
performed by other regions of the brain - there is reasonable hope for improvement."
Goldstein says that particularly for very young children there is now good
evidence that large parts of the brain are still "uncommitted" and that through
physiotherapy other areas of the brain can be stimulated to learn the function
of the lost area.
"As far as we can tell, when other areas of the brain assume these new functions
they do not perform them as efficiently," Goldstein notes. "This is seen most
obviously when cerebral palsy affects the hands and fingers. Even though some
function can be returned, it never works as well as when the brain is uninjured."
Another symptom that dramatically impacts a person afflicted with CP is spasticity,
the state of chronic contraction or stiffness of muscles. This inability to
control one's muscles often makes walking extremely difficult for many children
and adults with CP.
"Fortunately we now have some drugs like Botox and Baclofen that can help reduce
the deficits created by spasticity," Goldstein explains. "We can inject very
small amounts of Botox into the spastic muscle and it will relax. When one subsequently
superimposes programs of physiotherapy on top of this muscle -- which is no
longer over-contracted -- the hope is that some of the lost function can be
Baclofen is another powerful drug that causes muscles to relax. But Baclofen
works only in fairly high concentrations in the fluid surrounding the spinal
cord. This can only be accomplished by surgically implanting a small pump.
According to Goldstein, the difference between the two treatments is Baclofen
affects all of the nerves going to the leg. Botox only treats a specific muscle.
"Since there are now a number of methods for reducing spasticity as well as
physiotherapy and other treatments designed to restore some of the lost function,
early recognition and intervention are critically important," states Goldstein.
"There is not yet a completely satisfactory treatment for CP, but research is
continuing and advances are being made."
Hines hopes to help that research along by raising funds and awareness and
has heartfelt advice for soon-to-be moms.
"A lot of women don't want to seem overly sensitive during their pregnancy,
but I want expectant moms to know that if anything feels strange to listen to
your body and go with your instincts," says Hines.
For more information about cerebral palsy, click
To reach the March of Dimes, click
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Created: 8/28/2004  - John Morgan & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Reviewed: 8/28/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.