Archive for March, 2014

Atticus’ Journey: A Life Not Defined by Seizures

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Atticus, 2, has seen his share of challenges in his life, suffering from several types of seizures. His parents Melissa Springstead and Terence Porter enlisted the help of Grandview and are thrilled with the help he is receiving.

By Lindsey Cole/The Oshawa Express








“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ‘em all away from you. That’s never possible.” – Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird

Melissa Springstead and Terence Porter were elated when little Atticus came into the world. The pregnancy was normal. The first few months of his life were not unlike any other baby’s. Atticus was making all the right milestones and seemed to be progressing well. Then, in 2012, at four-and-a-half months old, the little boy started showing signs that something wasn’t right. That’s when he had his first seizure.  His body would stiffen, his head would droop and there would be excessive arm flailing. Atticus was experiencing a severe form of epilepsy called infantile spasms.

“Apparently it is very very rare,” Melissa says.

All those milestones he’d reached, all the precious moments his mother and father experienced were beginning to fade. Atticus was now responding at the level of a newborn.  “It took all his motor skills away from him,” Terence explains. “He wouldn’t smile. He’d just kind of look at you.”  The little boy needed medication, a hormone injection every two days, but the treatment would come with terrible side effects. The result would be a baby that was exhibiting signs of acne and growth spurts, plus a severe loss of appetite. It felt surreal- like a dream. This couldn’t be happening to us,” says Melissa. “People used to look at us and stare.” But the treatment worked and the family was on the right track. After referral, assessment and treatment at Grandview Children’s Centre, work began to help Atticus reach milestones again.

“He was cured of infantile spasms,” Melissa adds, and he was seizure free.  “I woke up in the morning. He usually scratches his bed,” as a symbol that it’s time to get up, his father explains. But after a few minutes Terence knew something was terribly wrong. “The sound kept going.” He ran to check on Atticus to find, “He was in a full grand mal seizure.”  Those seizures would continue daily for a month. With medication, the grand mal seizures subsided.

After 11 months seizure free, Atticus started experiencing a different type of seizure called drop seizures. He was now facing up to 20 drop seizures a day – his little body would crumble with each one.  It’s been trial and error with medication ever since.  “His development has been pretty off. He’s non-verbal. He is a baby at two,” Terence says.

“It’s been six months and six medications,” his mother adds.  And while at times the couple gets down, they say thanks to Grandview and the staff there, they have reason to hope and be optimistic with Atticus’ progress. At the centre, the toddler takes part in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy twice a week. He has been at Grandview since he was nine months old, and will likely be there until he is at least seven, Terence explains.

“We love the staff, we love the team,” says Melissa. “It (Grandview) is special. They get just as excited as we do (when there are milestones Atticus reaches). We’re all there for the same reason.”

Dr. Carolyn Hunt is a developmental paediatrician who has been working at Grandview Children’s Centre since 2002. She has been the medical director at the Oshawa-based centre since 2008. She sees first-hand the importance the services have and what they can mean to a family.  Since she is usually the first one to see a child and meet with families, she can follow the progression along and see the benefits and growth along the way.  “We’ve become much more focussed on evidence-based care and family-based care at the same time,” she says. “The kids will see me and we’ll make the decisions. (It’s about) providing the best care for the kids. A lot of people will say to me, ‘how do you do that job? Even if it’s small, it’s amazing. The little things that people might take for granted, like a child pointing for the first time, smile for the first time…the families get to see that.”

Dr. Hunt explains that there are some challenges Grandview is facing when it comes to wait times for children and funding.  “There’s a long wait list,” she states, adding it’s about a nine-month wait list for a medical appointment. “There are other kids waiting just like him (Atticus).”  When it comes to funding, Dr. Hunt says garnering more community support would go a long way, as the service centre is the only one of its kind in Durham providing specialized programs, outpatient clinical treatment, and support to thousands of children and youth with special needs and their families.  “Funding is our biggest challenge,” says Dr. Hunt. “A lot of families characterize Grandview as a lifeline. Without new funding there’s nothing we can really do. We have a growing population in Durham.”  Continued community support is needed, she says, as it would help manage wait lists and allow Grandview to plan for expansion in the future with a new building.  “It’s extremely difficult to address the changing needs of the region. We need the community to rally behind us so we can advocate to the government,” she explains.  At the end of the day, Dr. Hunt says, it comes down to helping children like Atticus reach their fullest potential.  “For Atticus, he’s had some setbacks…now that he’s a little bit older, he’s getting more skills,” she recalls, adding she is thrilled to see him coming along. She too attributes his progress and that of other children to the therapy team.  “We focus on what kids can do,” she says.

And while Melissa and Terence have had their share of challenges, they say seeing Atticus reach certain milestones again is rewarding.  “There’s always hard, dark days. As difficult as it may get, all you need is a smile from him. You have to try and stay positive,” his mother says looking at Atticus with a smile. “He’s very tough, but he’s also snuggly. He’s a teddy bear.”  “He may have epilepsy but epilepsy doesn’t have him,” his father says, adding his name comes from the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird as Atticus Finch “portrays an awesome character. He’s strong.”

His son shares that trait with the character, Terence says.
“He’s my hero. Strongest boy I know,” he says.


Baby Atticus needs a walker and we would like to make a difference in this little boys life and raise as much funds as we can to help his family pay for this.  Send your donation through PayPal using 100% of money raised will go towards Baby Atticus walker.