By Kellie Burkhart

My super hero is our 6-year-old son, Andrew.

Andrew is our biggest blessing and best teacher in this world. He teaches his parents important lessons every day. Lessons like not to take for granted your talents and abilities, how to be patient when you are really frustrated, how to be an AMAZING friend to all who will let you, and many more.

And Andrew has cerebral palsy.

His “special shoes” are what we call the devices that he wears on his leg and feet to strengthen his leg, stretch his feet, and provide sensory feedback to his brain. My super hero wears some cool looking special shoes!

After six years of trying to get pregnant and losing our first little angel to miscarriage, we were blessed with Andrew in October of 2006. We knew early on that he had some physical issues (severely tongue tied at birth, significant gastrointestinal issues, torticolis of the neck, etc.) but did not realize all of what was going on for some time. Andrew is an interesting little one, as he is advanced in some areas (one of them being intelligence), but he has some gross motor delays, speech delays, and has had significant and chronic GI issues.

Andrew’s GI functioning was not at all normal and was our biggest concern and prayer. His GI system was so broken, even after years of seeing the top pediatric GI doctors in the area, that Andrew had to be in diapers at age four and weighing nearly fifty pounds because it was impossible to potty train him. His tummy hurt all the time, and we were heartbroken, frustrated, and desperate for relief for Andrew.

Please don’t leave our story here, though, because out of our frustration and desperation, we have found hope and healing!

We really want you to hear about that! This was the beginning of a path of treatment for Andrew that has helped greatly and has taken us far outside our comfort zone at the same time. This path has been full of miracles, important lessons, and blessings for Andrew and our family.

You have heard it said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Well, Andrew’s life significantly improved at the end of our comfort zone, and we are SO THANKFUL we dared to venture there!     

At the urging of some friends who had been in similar desperate places with their own family’s serious medical needs, we took Andrew to a specific medical doctor who only practices holistic medicine. The doctor is a reported “pioneer” in the field, and that office visit was unlike any I had ever attended. The doctor listened a lot and for a long time. He treated Andrew as a whole person, unlike the specialists who looked at only their specific areas. Through the doctor’s nontraditional methods of testing and treatment, he found ways to help Andrew that we had not tried. He is the doctor who diagnosed Andrew with cerebral palsy. Andrew continues to see him frequently.

The holistic M.D. sent us directly to another non-mainstream doctor. This one is a craniopath—a chiropractor with many years of additional training in how to do cranial sacral work. Andrew is treated by this doctor weekly. Andrew used to “toe walk,” and within eight visits to the craniopath, Andrew was walking flat footed for the first time in his life and continues to do so today!

Andrew’s schedule of doctor and therapy appointments each week required that one parent leave the traditional workforce to meet his needs. That meant significantly less money at a time that we desperately needed more. Being a teacher (father) and mental health therapist (mother) for children, we were very accustomed to being the “helpers.” For the first time in our lives, we had to be the ones asking for help, as our son’s quality of life and functioning depended on it.

Andrew’s GI issues improved through the care of these two doctors but not to the degree necessary. Therefore, the doctors recommended that Andrew get stem cell and hyperbaric oxygen treatments. I was told by the doctors that, “The best stem cell doctor in the country is in California, and you need to take Andrew to him.” We had never heard of either of these treatments and had a lot to learn, but we trusted the doctors that the treatments would help Andrew.

None of the doctors or the treatments on this “new medical path” for Andrew are covered by insurance. The treatments that we have seen as having a significant positive influence on our son’s overall functioning are considered experimental by the insurance industry; therefore, insurance won’t pay for any of it. We pay an average of 750 dollars per month out of pocket for Andrew’s ongoing medical care on my husband’s very modest school teacher salary. The stem cell and hyperbaric oxygen treatments cost many thousands of dollars and require traveling to another state for many weeks (and ultimately into Mexico).   

Fast forward two years from diagnosis and our first steps on a new medical path.

We have taken Andrew to California to get stem cell and hyperbaric oxygen treatments the last two summers. Andrew’s GI system was literally fixed within days of the first stem cell treatment! What an answered prayer! Within days of the second stem cell treatment, Andrew’s left (affected side) arm was moving in ways that it never had before. He is also physically stronger and more coordinated since these treatments and has experienced some improvements in his speech as well. In short, Andrew has experienced significant improvements in his functioning through non-traditional medical methods and treatments!

Now our journey also includes letting others know that there is hope and help for healing of cerebral palsy and other brain-related disorders.

While the treatments that are helping are not covered by insurance, there are ways to raise money for the medical needs of your loved ones. We want others to know that this could be you, your child, or your loved one as well. These same treatments that are helping to cure Andrew from the effects of cerebral palsy can help others with brain-related disorders as well (e.g. stroke, TBI, ALS, MS). You are NOT LIMITED by what your insurance will pay for!

We pray that people are inspired by this story of our little “super hero,” as his daily journey definitely inspires us. Andrew fights his fight with a hug and a smile for everyone, every day. He has this infectious joy about him that he shares with all who will let him.

My parting request: PLEASE PRAY FOR ANDREW!

 The Burkhart family lives in Phoenix, AZ. They are preparing to take Andrew for his third annual summer trip to California. While there, Andrew will again undergo a bone marrow stem cell transplant and many hyperbaric oxygen treatments in an effort to further improve his overall functioning. Andrew’s parents would very much appreciate your prayers and support. For more information on their prayer requests and how any person or business can help Andrew with a donation toward his medical treatments, please see the following links:

Andrew’s journey

Online, ongoing tax deductible fundraiser for Andrew’s medical bills

Follow Andrew on Facebook

NBC Los Angeles—Andrew’s treatments this summer and an amazing group of people who helped us

Please share this information, as you never know who can be helped and inspired by this true life story of our little super hero who wears special shoes!