Local physical therapist working with children

Published 7:14 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Exercises incorporating fun and games are what bring children needing physical therapy at Mizell Wellness Center.

Dr. Katie Zessin, a physical therapist, said when working with children, all exercises must be incorporated into a game that is fun and will keep their attention.

“I see approximately 20 children per week through the Covington County and Opp School Systems,” Zessin said. “These children receive PT due to their IEP (individual education program) for various reasons.”

One young man she has helped is Rylan Grice, who came to her with right side weakness, difficulty walking, poor balance and difficulty using his right arm with accuracy.

The issues were a result of surgery to remove a tumor from Rylan’s cerebellum, his mom Jerrica Holley said.

“The cerebellum controls all of your body movements, so when they removed the tumor it affected the right side of his body,” his mother, Jerrica Holley, said. “For a while, he wasn’t really able to walk. His right leg wasn’t being placed as it should, and his right arm and hand would shake, so he wasn’t able to use it real well.”

Holley said she started taking Rylan to the Mizell Wellness Center about a month ago to visit with Katie Zessin, a physical therapist, twice a week.

She said doctors sent them to Montgomery for physical therapy, but through word of mouth they found Zessin.

“He loves miss Katie, he gets really excited with seeing her,” Holley said. “A lot of people don’t realize that she helps kids.

“They have done different play as therapy, like popping bubbles and balloons,” she said. “Stuff that would be exercise for kid and still fun. He was able to help decorate a Christmas tree, and he also swims some.”

“Rylan and I have worked to use “righty” (his right arm or leg) for normal activities such as drawing, playing catch, open and closing doors, jumping, and playing with boy toys such as his cars, super heros, and nerf guns,” Zessin said. “I saw vast improvements with Rylan when we added water therapy. This excitement took his mind off the difficulty of using righty and more on the fun we were having.”

She said Rylan began to swim using both hands, reach for a ball with “righty,” go up and down the rung ladder using “righty” as his strong leg, and jump with both feet from the side of the pool.

She said while alternating pool and land therapy, Rylan began to also enjoy more difficult tasks, including standing on the BOSU ball to practice balance and jumping on the trampoline.

Rylan has since met all of his goals in using “righty” and can now feed himself, go up and down stairs and can return to normal three-year-old play, Zessin said.

“Rylan has been a blast to work with,” Zessin said. “Once he warmed up to my staff, he always came with so much energy. He was determined to go back to his normal play with a “righty” that didn’t shake.

Rylan’s mom credits the therapy with Zessin for his improvements.

“There is a little part of the tumor left, because if the doctor had taken any more, it may have affected him more,” Holley said. “Because that little part is left, we’ll have to go back every few months for them to do a MRI to see if that part of the tumor has grown any, stayed the same or disappeared. This may be something we deal with for the rest of his life.”

Despite all of these challenges, Rylan wants to be a bull rider when he grows up.

“He’s asking Santa for the glove that mutton busters and bull riders wear,” Holley said. “So a kid who had a tumor in his brain, wants to be a bull rider. It’s kind of ironic, but that’s his dream.”

Rylan will go back to the doctor this Thursday for a check-up, and Holley said the doctors predicted a good outcome from the visit.

Zessin works with patients of all ages.

“Our outpatient practice at the Mizell Wellness Center is not primarily focused on any one population,” Zessin said. “I see from pediatric to geriatric patients with a variety of symptoms, including but not limited to, orthopedic injuries, neurological impairments, balance issues and back pain.”

A 2006 Straughn High School graduate, Zessin earned a degree in exercise since from Auburn, and a doctorate from Alabama State. She has been employed at the Mizell Memorial Hospital since Aug. 2013.

Hours at Wellness Center are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, call 334-493-1730 ext. 323.