It has been said that people come into another’s life for a reason. That chance encounters can have meaningful impacts on the life of another, especially if a person is open to the ideas and help they bring.
Cameron Lovell and his family know this to be true. A 15-year-old basketball player with an engaging smile and sense of humor, Cameron has plans and hopes for his future. Cameron also has lived with the effects of cerebral palsy for most of his life.
“My son was born at 31 weeks gestation, along with his twin brother (Caden),” Brandal Lovell said. “Cameron was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 11 months old. We had years of therapy and lots of doctors’ appointments, but never had anyone told us about any life-changing surgery.”
Fast-forward to Dec. 14, 2018, the twins’ 15th birthday.
Although the twins are home schooled, they play basketball for Applewood Christian Academy. On the night of their birthday they had a game in Columbia. This begins the first chance encounter of the story.
“One of the referees at the game stops me and asks me who the boy is with CP,” Applewood Head Basketball Coach Eric Rehmer said. “I looked at him and asked him what he was asking. He repeated the question so I went over and asked my wife, Mindy, what he meant by the question,” Rehmer continued. “She told me he was asking who Cameron was.”
Rehmer explained the question caught him off guard because he doesn’t see Cameron as someone with cerebral palsy but rather one of his athletes and his son’s teammate.
Through a discussion following the game the referee disclosed he has a daughter with cerebral palsy. He told the Lovells about a life changing surgery his daughter recently underwent.
The surgery was the work of Dr. T.S. Park at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Park is considered to be the pioneer of the surgery, called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR).
Lovell was given the information and began the journey of SDR. After completing forms and evaluations, Cameron was scheduled in August to be seen by Park. He was approved and is scheduled for surgery Nov. 21. The family has been told if all goes as planned they will be home to celebrate Thanksgiving together.
According to Lovell, part of Cameron’s spine L-1 and L-2 will be removed.
“Nerves in the spine will be individually tested with MRI, the dorsal nerves that control spasticity, will specifically be tested,” she explained. “Dorsal nerves showing high spasticity are cut, severing signals permanently to the brain
“After surgery, he will have an epidural in for three days due to the nature of surgery and pain,” she continued. “They will remove the epidural on day three and he will begin physical therapy that day.”
Cameron will then begin four months of physical therapy five days a week. Following his physical therapy Cameron will make a post-op visit with Park to see what the next steps will be in his road to recovery.
Rehmer already knows what to expect — the same determination and drive that has led Cameron to this point in his life.
“Cameron is just a great kid,” Rehmer said. “There were times when I tried to adjust practice to help him more but he doesn’t want that. He wants to be treated just like any other kid on the team. Just like anyone else if something were to happen to him there are 16 other players coming to his defense.
“I love his work ethic and his determination and his drive; he has a great drive,” Rehmer continued. “He tries really hard to do his best every time. He has challenges just like everyone else but he makes the best of everything.”
His mother agrees.
“Cameron's daily life is typical to yours and mine, except that everything is harder,” she explained. “His body doesn't move the way a ‘normal’ body moves. The tightness in his muscles makes him have to put forth effort that we aren't used to.”
Cameron started walking at 2-years-old; typically children start walking by age 1. Thankfully, according to Lovell, he has been an independent walker, with the use of foot braces (AFOs) until he was 11 years old.
“The AFOs stabilized his feet and corrected toe-walking as well as his feet turning in, which children with cerebral palsy are prone to do,” Lovell commented. “His younger years were filled with physical, occupational, and vision therapies, but the funny thing is, if you asked Cameron, he would say his life is no different from any other teenage boy,” she continued. “He doesn't like to be told that he can't do something.”
Cameron is a lover of sports and anything sports related, and his mother said she’d put him up against any sports statistician or historian.
“Cameron is a lover of books,” she continued. “He is well educated on any world war, history of the world, and sports. The kid has read hundreds of books.”
Cameron has four other brothers who are in constant competition with each other.
“I feel that Caden, Cameron's twin, has been the biggest blessing for Cameron because he's always had someone there pushing him to do what a normal child is to do,” Lovell remarked. “I asked Caden what it was like to have a twin with cerebral palsy, he said, ‘I don't know anything different, so it's just normal to me,’
“…my faith in Jesus Christ is what rules my life,” Lovell responded when asked what advice she would give others facing these circumstances. “God radically saved me as a 19-year-old girl, rebellious to the Christian faith that I was raised in, pregnant and unmarried.”
At the time she found out she was pregnant she did not know she was expecting twins, which she feels is also a blessing.
“It's been awesome to see God use Cameron and Caden’s lives, to make me the mother and person I am today,” she said. “So, my advice would be to trust God in the unknown, his timing is perfect.
“I truly believe God is going to do a miracle in Cameron's life,” Lovell continued. “Everyone that knows Cameron is inspired by his sweet smile, his witty personality, and his perseverance — that is the word I would use to describe Cameron's life. Perseverance!”