Alternative therapy sparks improvements in toddler

Posted on Jan 4, 2009 in Uncategorized

By Pamela Powers
Menomonie News Bureau

MENOMONIE – Andrew and Lisa Wagner are ecstatic when their 16-month-old son, Elijah, cries or throws a tempter tantrum.

“We rejoice because we didn’t know if he would ever do that,” Lisa Wagner said. “It was two weeks after he was born until we heard him cry.

“Everybody takes a lot of stuff for granted – like breathing, swallowing and crying.”

Deprived of oxygen at birth, Elijah spent his first 21 days of life in the hospital. He has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, developmental delay, secondary microcephaly – or small head circumference – and cortical vision impairment.

His prognosis at birth was not promising, and the family still doesn’t know what his future holds.

But Elijah is a fighter. He breathes and swallows on his own, sits unassisted, is crawling and can stand and walk with assistance.

“It’s a wait-and-see. We don’t know to what level he will be impacted by disabilities or developmental delay,” Andrew Wagner said.

The Wagners are Menomonie natives who live in Elk River, Minn. They graduated from Menomonie High School in 2000 and both earned degrees at UW-Stout in Menomonie. Elijah’s grandparents are John and Teri Wagner and Dennis and Kathy Lausted, all of Menomonie. His great-grandmother is Joyce Marine, also of Menomonie.

To help maximize Elijah’s development, Andrew and Lisa Wagner have conducted research and have provided their son with standard and alternative therapies.

He sees occupational, physical and vision therapists. Plus they are trying an alternative therapy called hyperbaric oxygen therapy. With HBOT, which is not covered by insurance, patients go in a chamber that increases atmospheric pressure to that of 16 feet below water. They breathe through a mask with 100 percent oxygen. The goal is to create capillary growth in the brain and new blood vessels, Andrew Wagner said.

After 40 sessions in September, the Wagners said they saw physical and cognitive changes in their son.

“His vision improved,” said Andrew Wagner, 26. “He seems to focus better in the here and now and less in his own world. He is able to move better with less muscle tightness.”

Lisa Wagner agreed.

“To me it just seemed he had a better awareness,” she said. “We had the same child, but we had a lot more of him. He had a longer attention span. It just seemed his vision and movement improved.”

The family hopes to complete another 40 sessions starting in March.

Andrew Wagner said dealing with his son’s illness has been difficult, but family and friends have been supportive.

“It’s really given me faith. I can’t change this. It’s really brought us closer to God, family and friends,” he said.

To read a blog by Lisa Wagner about Elijah’s progress, go to