Harrison Burgess never takes his mobility for granted. A 21-year-old senior at the University of Pittsburgh, he is actively engaged in school, on campus, and at home in the South Hills. He also lives with a disability.
“I was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth, but I don’t let it define who I am or what I do,” Harrison explains. “Over many years, The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh has provided me the opportunity to become a very mobile individual who lives life to the best of my ability.”
Spina bifida is a congenital disorder that involves the incomplete development of the spine. It causes weak muscles in the legs and back which directly impact mobility. Harrison started receiving physical therapy services from The Children’s Institute at the age of three, first in Greentree, and then in Bridgeville. Harrison’s therapists have used individualized techniques and interventions to improve his mobility throughout his lifetime, including aquatic therapy at the Squirrel
“I have faced a number of challenges as I have grown over the years, including surgeries,” Harrison explains. “My physical therapists helped me at different times to adapt to leg braces, crutches, a walker, and a wheelchair. They empowered me to take care of my body and held me accountable to home exercise programs that keep me healthy and strong.
“The therapists at The Children’s Institute also taught me how to use my voice,” he continues. “They really listened to what was important to me and taught me how to be an advocate for my care and well-being.”
Today, Harrison is using his voice in a variety of ways. As a psychology major, he loves connecting with and encouraging people. An articulate and talented performer since childhood, he has a passion for music, theater, and acting. Harrison serves as a worship leader at both his home church and on campus, and he also plays competitive sled hockey for the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins.
“From the time I was a toddler, my therapists always provided very personalized treatment that was designed to help me succeed,” Harrison reflects. “We formed a strong bond of trust that has lasted from the time when I was receiving treatment multiple times each week to now, when I’m responsible for keeping up with my home exercise program in between occasional appointments.”
Harrison’s forward progress continues to propel him toward success, both today and into the future.
Personalized and family-centered physical therapy services at The Children’s Institute treat physical injuries, orthopedic conditions, and medical complexities. Learn more on our physical health services page