Outpouring of support for girl injured in accident

Monday, November 23, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST
Margaret Romph uses her FES rehabilitation bike to help stimulate her muscles in her arms while her mom, Sherline Romph, monitors her Nov. 11, 2009, in their Jefferson City home. Margaret is performing her physical therapy exercise as she works on her arms one day and her legs the next. This bike was made specifically for Margaret and the needs she has as far as muscle stimulation and strengthening.

 JEFFERSON CITY — This is another in a long line of miracles for Margaret.

Margaret Romph received her FES rehabilitation bike through insurance and can now begin an integral part of her rehabilitation in the comfort of her newly remodeled rehabilitation room.

Earlier this year, Margaret, her older sister Erin and their grandmother were involved in a serious accident, just outside of the Jefferson City city limits.

The accident left Erin and their grandmother with minor injuries and Margaret, who was 5 at the time, with life threatening injuries.

Spinal cord injuries have left her wheelchair bound. Though she has come a long way since her initial prognosis, her parents, Eric and Sherline, are determined to make sure Margaret has every advantage available to her.

One of their first steps is providing Margaret with all the opportunities that were included in a two-month stay at Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) in Maryland, the same hospital that treated Christopher Reeve following his spinal cord injury.

Almost from the first day she was at KKI, Margaret was using an FES bike in daily therapy.

The bike provides electrical stimulation to targeted muscle groups, while Margaret is using either her arms or legs, one at a time.

The hope, Sherline said, is that the impulses will help her nerves fire, then help her brain to make the connection once again.

"She was doing so well at Kennedy Krieger," Sherline said. "The FES bike is a very big part of her rehab, and we want to give her every opportunity."

Since arriving home June 30, Margaret has not had access to the bike. The only other FES bike in town is owned by another family whose child also suffered spinal cord injuries following a car accident.

Having gone several months without using the FES bike, her muscles have weakened, and strengths and weaknesses have changed.

"When we were at Kennedy Krieger, there was response in her left arm, and nothing in her right arm," Sherline said. "Now it is opposite. Now there is almost no response in her left arm and more of a response in her right arm."


Because Margaret is not tall enough, even combined with the height of her chair, she works her legs and arms out one at a time, for 30 minutes on each side.

She exercises her arms one day and legs the next.

Margaret also does physical therapy at school and several times a week on an outpatient basis. She also takes part in speech and occupational therapies.

Even with the assistance of nurses at home, Sherline prefers to do much of Margaret's care herself, when she can.

"She cannot go to school without a nurse," she said. "Even though I have been trained on how to take care of her, she has to have a certified nurse."

Margaret is now in kindergarten at Lawson Elementary School and enjoys the interaction with other children her age. She especially enjoys school on days when her parents are able to attend activities with her.

The year has been a trying one for the Romph family. Extended family members have become ill and needed surgeries. Colds and flus in the home have made it an extra challenge to keep Margaret healthy.

Though it has been a heartbreaking year for the family, there have also been bright spots, which Sherline has said made the good moments even more special.

"Any day is a miracle you take each day one at a time," she said.

In August, the Dream Factory granted Margaret's wish to go to Disney World and see all the princesses. But, Sherline recalled, Margaret really wanted to see Pinocchio, and Monsters Inc. stars Sully and Mike Wazowski.

"I was a little nervous about that, because they are not some of the more popular ones to see," Sherline said. "We got to see them all, though."

Margaret grinned when asked about the princesses she saw, and the giant life-sized game of Candy Land, her favorite game.

"It was really neat, and Margaret won the game when we played," Sherline recalled.

While in Orlando, the family also visited the beach and Sea World.

Though Margaret has a long road ahead of her, the FES bike and her own determination have her headed in the right direction.

"They say that people who use the FES bike go farther in recovery than patients with the same injuries who do not use the bike," Sherline explained. "We are sure this is just the first step in more miracles for Margaret."

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