In 2011, Cary Mohs Sommer and her husband, Josh, were looking forward to welcoming their second child into the world. Cary was having a relatively easy pregnancy, with the first two trimesters being problem-free. During their routine 25-week checkup, however, that all changed.
Cary’s doctors unexpectedly discovered a complete previa, a condition in which the placenta covers the opening of the cervix, which can be dangerous as it may cause preterm birth and/or bleeding during delivery. While at the appointment, Cary began hemorrhaging from the previa and needed to be induced immediately. At just 25 weeks, Grady was born, weighing a little more than 2 pounds. After his birth, he was quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s Minnesota.
Just three days after delivery, Grady began bleeding excessively in his lungs and brain. Clotting from Grady’s brain bleed quickly led to a condition known as hydrocephalus, a build-up of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. Less than a week old, Grady was rushed into emergency surgery, where Dr. Joseph Petronio and his team inserted a temporary shunt to facilitate the flow of CSF and relieve the pressure in Grady’s brain. But the hydrocephalus persisted, and another surgery was needed two months later. This time, Dr. Petronio implanted a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt, a long-term solution to manage the condition.
Grady spent the summer in the NICU and was on a ventilator for the first three months of his life. Because of the damage from his brain bleed and hydrocephalus, Grady was diagnosed at 18 months with cerebral palsy, a non-progressive neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and body movement. When Grady was finally able to leave the NICU, he received a grim prognosis from his care team — he may never be able to talk or move on his own.
Grady began therapy and treatment as soon as possible, working with occupational, speech and physical therapists at Children’s. Because doctors were able to diagnose him early, he was making significant progress, and quicker than expected. When he first got his walker, one of his physical therapists set an ambitious goal that someday Grady would be able to independently climb up to his walker and pull himself up.
At just 4 years old, Grady has already reached this goal.
“He works so hard and does everything he can, the best he can,” Cary said. “No matter what obstacle is in his way, he is always determined to figure it out.”
Today, Grady continues to persevere and exceed expectations. He has had to undergo three shunt revisions but continuously lets his resilience shine by remaining positive and working hard. Grady is taking part in different therapies at Children’s and school, and is improving every day. He took part in a 12-week study on hippotherapy, also known as equine therapy. The therapy helped him to strengthen muscle groups in a different atmosphere, but best of all, according to Cary, it helped him gain confidence and self-esteem. As an animal lover, Grady cherishes his time with the horses and is continuing hippotherapy as he can.
Besides his affection for animals, Grady enjoys playing with his big sister, Rylie, and loves learning about cars, trucks, planes and trains — anything with an engine. For Halloween last year, Grady turned his walker into fire truck, which he showed off proudly with his firefighter costume.
“We are constantly inspired by Grady. He is the sweetest, friendliest kid, and his positive demeanor is so infectious,” Cary said. “He has never been someone you feel sorry for, because he doesn’t let you. He just brings so much joy with him everywhere he goes.”