9-year-old patient at Platte Valley Medical Center dreams of being paralympic sled hockey player
When he was just seven months old, Mitchell Wennberg started presenting polio-like symptoms. After years of doctor visits and his leg not recovering, he was finally diagnosed with a rare case of Enterovirus D68, a virus without vaccines or treatment available. The virus caused acute flaccid myelitis, leaving his right leg paralyzed.
Initially, Mitchell’s family was told he'd have no recovery or movement in his right leg. They sought care at Platte Valley Medical Center and at the time he was using a reverse walker to ambulate. The doctors decided to try the use of an HKAFO, which is a full leg orthotic with a strap that goes around the waist. Over time, he was able to decrease the size of his brace and now uses a KAFO, which is an orthotic that only controls the knee, ankle and foot.
After participating in physical therapy and finding the right leg brace, Mitchell, now 9-years-old, has found a way to participate in activities he loves, in particular, ice hockey. Though, it’s a modified version of the typical sport.
"It's like hockey for disabilities," Mitchell said. "You're closer to the ice and you can actually pass under your sled.”
Mitchell started playing sled hockey about a year and a half ago, where he maneuvers on his sled and finds comfort in being around other people like him.
"My husband and I love hockey,” said Kristy Wennberg, Mitchell’s mom. “We met while playing hockey. We love the fact that he's doing this."
Sled hockey is a sport the U.S. has won a gold medal in the last three Paralympics games.
One of Mitchell’s idols is Team USA sled hockey Paralympian Nikko Landeros, who he met at the Greeley Ice Haus after getting involved with the youth team. Nikko has helped Mitchell with his blades and ice skills and has become an inspiration to Mitchell. Now, Mitchell hopes to participate in the Paralympics games one day and be like Nikko.
“He is thriving in this sport that is uniquely adapted to allow for Mitchell to develop all of the wonderful qualities that kids learn from participation in team sports such as teamwork, dedication, competitiveness, and how to both win and lose with pride,” said Kim Rising, Mitchell’s physical therapist at Platte Valley.
Proper orthotic design, fabrication and materials were crucial in giving Mitchell the freedom to walk and run without assistance. This independence, in combination with physical therapy, has allowed Mitchell to build his confidence and tap into his strengths during physical activities that may have otherwise been impossible for him.
“Mitchell is one of the most motivated, positive and trusting people I know,” said Kim. “His drive and work ethic have propelled him to where he is today and in the future, I truly hope that he continues to push boundaries and move mountains.”
Mitchell and his parents hope to inspire other children and parents in similar situations with their story.
Watch Channel 9 NEWS' coverage here: https://www.9news.com/article/sports/olympics/colorado-kid-paralympic-sled-hockey/73-d2142681-b829-4c2e-84e6-d0966e3fb00d