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Gillette launches first pediatric healthcare press in Minnesota

Saint Paul Pioneer Press - 3/5/2020

Mar. 5--Tommy Collison was diagnosed with cerebral palsy a year after he was born in Ireland 25 years ago. His doctor predicted he would be in a wheelchair by the time he was in college. Tommy's mother, Lily, refused to accept that bleak diagnosis and her research led the family to Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul.

Tommy is a college graduate now and his mother has written a book, "Spastic Diplegia -- Bilateral Cerebral Palsy." It is the first book from the new publishing platform called Gillette Children's Healthcare Press, the first pediatric health care press in Minnesota.

The Collisons were guest speakers at today's launch of Lily's book, applauded by a roomful of Gillette staff, supporters and families whose children have cerebral palsy. The event was held in connection with Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month.

Dr. Tom Novacheck, orthopedic surgeon and Tommy's doctor, said Gillette is world-renowned for treating cerebral palsy. The facility sees patients from every county in Minnesota, 41 states and 15 countries.

Tommy Collision, a cheerful young man with Irish-red hair, has spastic diplegia, a subtype of cerebral palsy.

During his years of treatment at Gillette, Tommy recalled, the staff always made him feel safe, especially when it came to his fear of needles. He talked about his numerous surgeries, including one in which "my left leg and right leg were different patients," and celebrating his 18th birthday, four days post-operative, with brunch at Mickey's Diner. He even played the lead in a school production of "Rent" with his leg in a cast

"My life is not defined by cerebral palsy," he said. "My mother instilled in me confidence that is influencing everything I do. Her determination, care and love are now available in book form."

Lily Collison, who has a science background, pointed out that there are 17 million people worldwide with cerebral palsy, 6 million of whom have spastic diplegia.

"In the early years I struggled to understand Tommy's condition," she told the audience. "I was reading and asking questions but good information on spastic diplegia didn't exist when he was diagnosed and 20 years later it still doesn't. That's why I wrote this book. Parents aren't sufficiently knowledgeable to help make meaningful medical decisions because they don't have enough information."

Collision said her 300-page softcover has "robust medical information" but is accessible for anyone with a high school education. She hopes it's read especially by adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy who say they hunger for information about their condition.

Collison and her husband, Dennis, learned about Gillette when she read "The Treatment of Gait Problems in Cerebral Palsy" (1991) by Dr. Jim Gage, retired pediatric orthopedic surgeon who was Tommy's first doctor at Gillette.

"I was a parent in Ireland and I read this book cover to cover," Collison recalled, holding up a well-worn copy. "I didn't understand half of it but it was the first specific information on spastic diplegia I found."

Gillette Children's Healthcare Press will be operated as a division within Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, administered by a steering committee comprised of six employees appointed by Barbara Joers, president and CEO. There is no timetable for publication of more books, all of which will align with Gillette's mission of improving treatment options for children with disabilities and advocating for patients and families.

"Spastic Diplegia -- Bilateral Cerebral Palsy" can be purchased through the website Money generated by book sales will help fund research at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.


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