Emma's Greatest Dream
Dublin rallies around family of 6-year-old
Dublin has stood by the Dickman family before and so far the community is coming through again.
Four years ago, the community held a fundraiser to send Emma Dickman to a physical therapy camp to learn to walk; now they're helping with Emma's next step.
The first-grader at Riverside Elementary School is on schedule for surgery in St. Louis this summer that will allow the 6-year-old to walk on her own.
"We told her, 'It's not to make you be like everyone else.' It's more about making things easier," Steve Dickman, Emma's father, said.
Emma was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy shortly after she turned 1, which means the disease affects all limbs.
When she was born in 2006, Mr. Dickman, a intervention specialist at Jerome High School, said Emma had brain bleeding and they were told she could have some motor and cognitive delay.
The brain damage ended up as cerebral palsy, which gives Emma tightness in her limbs and pain. But she doesn't let that stop her.
"Cognitively she's very, very bright," Mr. Dickman said. "She's a very energetic kid."
The surgery in St. Louis, selective dorsal rhizotomy, will work to get her walking after a layer of bone is removed from the spine and nerves that cause the tightness in Emma's muscles are cut.
Emma has been able to walk short distances with the assistance of a walker and Botox shots.
"The goal of the surgery is to not have painful shots anymore and not be pumping her body full of medicine," Mr. Dickman said.
If the surgery goes according to plan, Emma should be walking within a year, he said.
"She'll get a range of motion, which means she can develop muscle tone," he said.
While the surgery will likely be covered by insurance, few of the many sessions of physical therapy Emma needs afterward will be.
"The first six months, she'll need four sessions a week," Mr. Dickman said. "The second six months, depending on her mobility, she'll need three or four (physical therapy) visits per week."
Physical therapy and trips to St. Louis to prepare for surgery are adding up for the family of four that also includes Karrer Middle School paraprofessional Amanda Dickman and 4-year-old Owen.
A fundraiser came up after the couple created cerebral palsy awareness T-shirts and wore them to work one day.
"By the end of the day, I had 10 or 12 people asking for one," Mr. Dickman said.
A fundraiser for Emma was born and the first round of orders drew 240 requests. The second round of T-shirt orders currently is in production.
Students from Jerome are also thinking up ways to raise money for the family, he said.
"The Dublin community is absolutely awesome," he said. "We're very fortunate and very blessed to live here."
Asking the community for help was difficult, he said, but worth it to help Emma reach her dream of walking.
"As a dad, as parents, we want to do it on our own. It's hard to reach out and ask for support," he said. "But you need to realize you have to."
Despite the challenges, Emma's life has been a blessing and has helped put other problems in perspective.
"Everybody we've met with cerebral palsy has a great attitude. They're happy and loving life," Mr. Dickman said. "Emma does mention her pain, but she doesn't let it hold her down. It's amazing."
To order a cerebral palsy awareness T-shirt or help support the Dickmans' quest to get Emma to walk, search "Emma's Greatest Dream" on Facebook.