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Claire's Story

Jan 10, 2020

ClaireTen-year-old, Claire, was at school showing off her cartwheels when she felt pain in her arm. When she got home, her mom took her to urgent care, but an x-ray found nothing. Claire went to school the next day.

“We thought she was better, and then two days later, her right hand was turning up and she was dragging her leg.  We took her to a pediatrician who did a stroke assessment and recommended we go to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan,” said Claire’s mom, Amy.

At the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, they found a spinal lesion, an arteriovenous malformation (AVM); a rare tangle of blood vessels that can cause hemorrhaging, weakness, numbness, incontinence and paralysis. Believed to have been there since birth, it ruptured into her spinal cord.

December 2016, pediatric surgeons at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan removed the AVM. However, damage caused by the ruptured AVM, left Claire paralyzed. She spent the next two months recovering in the hospital and then transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Stilson Specialty Center-Clinton Township for outpatient therapy.

“We got her mobility back to about 90%, but we were devastated when they found another AVM and did more surgery”. The additional AVM caused even more paralysis.

Claire’s therapists recommended trying Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan’s (RIM) exoskeleton to help Claire learn to walk again. RIM’s exoskeletons are wearable robotic suits that allow people with mobility impairments to stand and walk. Typically used by RIM for adults, Claire met the height requirements and was approved to start using it.

“What a miracle!  It’s helped her go from being in a wheelchair to walking with a cane.  And her right arm and hand are getting stronger. There’s no way she would be able to do all that without this incredible therapy.”

Amy says the therapy teams at RIM and the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, have given them so much hope.  She thanks them for all their creativity and compassion.  And Claire is grateful too.

“I love RIM. My team makes it so much fun with games and challenges. I’m going to keep working hard until I don’t need my cane anymore and have full use of my hand,” said Claire.

Two of the state’s best known names in rehabilitation ‒ the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan ‒  work together to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services to children. Combine unparalleled rehabilitation services with nationally recognized pediatric subspecialty programs and a commitment to family-centered care; the result is an integrated program that meets the unique needs of children who have impairments or conditions due to injury, illness or developmental disability.

To find a location near you, visit