A Persistent Girl and Her Mystery
With long blonde hair and a big smile on her face, Anna Leingang looks like any other five-year-old girl; however, her life has been anything but normal. With the help of CHI St. Alexius Health’s Pediatric Therapy department, Anna has been able to make progress and many strides in what Lisa, Anna’s mom, calls a mystery condition.
Shortly after Anna was born, Lisa said things didn’t seem right and Anna was always sick with colds, respiratory infections and ear infections. At four months, Anna’s dad, Brad, took her for a checkup. Nurses found Anna’s head measured larger than normal. Brad and Lisa scheduled an appointment right away with Anna’s pediatrician. A CT scan showed swelling around the brain, called external hydrocephalus. Some babies are born with external hydrocephalus and for others it shows up a little later, but typically goes away by age two.
“Anna seemed to be on track her first year and was hitting all of her baby milestones,” Lisa explained. Then between the age of one and two, Anna seemed to regress. Sounds and movements she normally made stopped and certain activities ceased. Anna didn’t start walking until around 20 months. “She was not making the gains she was supposed to,” Lisa said.
After a few speech and occupational therapy sessions with Bismarck Early Childhood Education Program (BECEP), a friend referred them to CHI St. Alexius Health’s Pediatric Therapy department. The initial evaluation showed a medical necessity to receive assistance from the speech, physical and occupational therapy programs.
Jesse Wutzke is Anna’s occupational therapist. “When Anna started therapy she was a very shy, timid and almost nonverbal little girl who struggled with most skills she should’ve mastered for her age. She is now able to dress and undress herself almost independently, she can cut out simple shapes fairly well and she is able to write her name with a model given. She has opened up a bit more to movement-types of activities such as standing on a balance board that moves, going on swings or playing on playground equipment. It has been wonderful watching this little girl blossom over the last couple years!”
Anna attends speech therapy each week. Amber Fox, speech therapist, said she is currently focusing on motor planning for speech sounds such as tactile cuing (touching her face) and visual cues. “She has made significant improvements in her communication, play skills and speech articulation skills with therapy. She is able to verbalize her wants and needs and even tell you about her day. Anna is a very determined little girl who has worked very hard to improve her speech. The consistency and follow through provided by her family has been essential to her progress.”
Although Anna no longer goes to physical therapy, Cara Mitzel, said, “Anna blossomed with her gross motor skills such as throwing and catching, kicking a ball, overall balance with obstacle courses and her general confidence.”
Today, Anna is as happy as any five-year-old and has a huge imagination even though she is still working towards improving her speech, balance and attention span. “Anna picks up on a lot of things happening around her, it is just hard for her to convey her thoughts all the time,” Lisa said.
Brad and Lisa are thankful for the support from the therapy staff at CHI St. Alexius Health and say Anna enjoys her therapy sessions. “Not only will they work with her, but they work with me as well, giving me things I can do at home with her,” Lisa mentioned. She describes the cause of her daughter’s condition as a “mystery.” Lisa’s goal is for Anna’s life to be as close to normal as possible and for her to function on her own.
When the Leingang’s were asked to consider having Anna represent the Pediatric Therapy department as St. Alexius Kickball Tournament’s (SAKT) 2015 Ambassador, they said “yes” right away. Their goal is to help raise awareness for the department and the great work it does for children who struggle to overcome their health challenges. “Anna will seem to take two steps forward and then one step back, but with persistence, therapy has really, really helped her,” Lisa said. “Anna wouldn’t be where she is if it wasn’t for the Pediatric Therapy department.”
SAKT 2015 is a one-day, coed kickball tournament on Saturday, September 26 held at Clem Kelley or Cottonwood Softball Complex. Proceeds from SAKT 2015 will go toward the purchase of therapeutic equipment and technology utilized in pediatric occupational, physical and speech therapy treatments, helping our younger patients meet their health goals.
To learn how you can help the children served by CHI St. Alexius Health’s Pediatric Therapy department by participating in SAKT 2015, visit  or call 530-7394.