The long walk of recovery: Local family sees future without cerebral palsy - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

The long walk of recovery: Local family sees future without cerebral palsy

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Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 6:45 am | Updated: 12:30 pm, Tue May 15, 2012.

Andrew Burkhart doesn’t know he has cerebral palsy. As far as he’s concerned, he is living the life of a regular, 5-year-old kid who just happens to go to the doctor frequently.

His parents, Kellie and Andrew Burkhart, believe it is in the best interest for their son — he is happy, he goes to school regularly — and they don’t want that to change. Dad has a goal, too, that the disorder will regress to a point of insignificance before his son learns he ever had it.

With positive results recently, he doesn’t think that goal in unrealistic.

Andrew and his parents saw major improvements in the young boy’s gastrointestinal function after one round of stem cell treatments. He is scheduled to receive a second round in the coming months.

“Since two days after stem cells, everything has been normal and it’s been normal ever since,” said his father, Andrew Burkhart. “I want to say in three years my kid had (cerebral palsy). I think it’s a realistic goal.”

It has been and continues to be somewhat frustrating for the Burkharts, who could not get a concrete diagnosis for years. After visiting different doctors and going through various medications, little Andrew was diagnosed with cerebral palsy by his naturopathic doctor at age 4.

The Burkharts have experienced three main issues for most of Andrew’s young life — gastrointestinal (GI) problems since birth, issues with his speech and lessened mobility on his left side. With the GI problems under control, they are making progress, but the Burkharts know the battle is not over.

“He still has lots of struggles to overcome,” said his mother, Kellie Burkhart. “We’ve gone through years and years of people saying, ‘I don’t know (what he has).’ There are still doctors who say they don’t know for sure he has CP. But I say, ‘I don’t care what he has or doesn’t have. I’m his mommy. I just want him better.’”

The increasing burden of hospital bills and time required for their son has put strain on the Burkhart family. Kellie left her job and now stays home to look after little Andrew. She takes him to his naturopathic doctor and craniopath for treatments four times a week and makes sure he gets his 14 medications daily.

Older Andrew teaches seven classes as a math teacher at Hamilton High School. His days are long and fully packed. The former Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School teacher admits that this isn’t the way he imagined his life to play out, but that doesn’t mean he would trade it for anything.

“The reward is that my concept of self is diminished and I’d rather hang out with a 5-year-old right now than anyone else,” he said. “I think my family is witnessing a miracle. But those don’t just happen overnight. The process is as important as the miracle itself.”

With help from friends and family, the Burkharts will be traveling to California for stem cell treatments and staying there for a month. Andrew will be in isolation, as the doctor recommended, but his parents expect him to take the next adventure like he has with the hundreds of treatments before.

“We have been very blessed that he just tolerates this,” Kellie said. “He’s just a wonderful kid and crazy, smart and happy. It’s hard to sit in the doctor’s all the time, but he goes with the flow and makes the best of it.”

People interested in reading more about Andrew’s story, or would like to help with a donation, can visit the following websites: http://www.fansacrossamerica.org/assist_a_family/registry/families/families_in_need/andrew_burkhart_family.php; http://humantribeproject.com/tribes/andrew-burkharts-angel-tribe; and http://prayforandrew.wordpress.com/about.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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