Members of the Angels visited Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday morning to support an endeavor started by Angels bullpen coach Andrew Bailey.
The pediatric facility is special to Bailey. It is one of few in the country that offers selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery, a procedure Bailey’s six-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy underwent at Gillette’s in November 2017.
“As a parent that has a child that’s in and out of hospitals — this was her sixth surgery, and we spent a lot of time in hospitals — any time people are able to come and visit, whether they’re athletes or whoever it is, it just brightens up the day,” said Bailey, the 2009 American League rookie of the year who spent the final two seasons of his eight-year career as an Angels reliever. “It breaks up the monotony.”
Teddy, Bailey and wife Amanda’s first child, was born six weeks’ premature in July 2012. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The disorder, which affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture, is incurable but symptoms can be relieved with surgery.
At age 5, Teddy was given the green light for the SDR operation to relieve muscle spasticity, a condition that tightened the muscles and nerves in her lower extremities and impeded her ability to walk correctly. Surgeons opened her spinal cord and severed the nerves that were sending abnormal signals to her leg muscles. After about eight weeks of in-patient rehabilitation at Gillette, Teddy returned home to Connecticut in January 2018.
Instead of walking on her toes, she now can walk flat-footed. Amanda, Bailey said, marveled one day during physical therapy when she noticed Teddy sitting on the floor with her legs criss-crossed. “Just little things like that,” Bailey said, “The movements, being able to lay on her stomach or reach backwards. Different things like that is just incredible.”
Teddy still experiences mobility limitations and at times wears braces on her legs for support, but she can now play lacrosse, swim and take dance lessons.
“Throughout the course of her development we just listened, made the right choices, switched doctors when we thought we needed to and tried to put the puzzle together of her treatment and care,” Bailey said. “It culminated with her surgery out here. ... When she started doing things she couldn’t beforehand, that’s when life changed. It’s unbelievable. [She’s] able to run, climb a ladder or the rock wall or just sit [criss-cross] style and watch TV.”
Pitchers Griffin Canning and Tyler Skaggs and utility man David Fletcher accompanied Bailey to the children’s hospital on Tuesday. Former Angels pitcher Mike Morin, first-base coach Tommy Watkins and retired reliever Glen Perkins represented the Twins. They spent 90 minutesat the facility, spending time with patients and distributing team gear.
“You see those little kids just walking on the treadmill, just trying to walk. It kind of just puts everything in perspective,” Canning, 23, said. “A lot of them are pretty shy. But it was cool just to see them and take their mind off things and put a smile on their face.”
The Angels and Twins will visit patients at Children’s Hospital of Orange County next Wednesday during their three-game series in Anaheim.