WEST PLAINS -- Alissa Huckabee has the world wrapped around her finger, or at least it appears so to those who know her.
The little blonde girl with the infectious smile and big blue eyes knows just the right way to pout when she wants something and how to flash her pretty smile when she wants others to know she's happy.
"She's the sweetest, most special child alive," says her mother, Jennifer Huckabee of Thayer. Alissa seems to agree as she responds with, "I a good girl."
Alissa is a pediatric patient of Ozarks Medical Center Rehabilitation Services and the recipient of this years Ozarks Medical Center Docs vs. Jocks Physical Therapy Basketball Challenge. Funds raised at the game set for Oct. 8 at the West Plains Civic Center will be used to purchase medical equipment to assist Alissa who was born with the frontal lobe of her brain missing.
The game, a friendly rivalry between physicians on the OMC medical staff and therapists from OMC is held annually as part of the celebration of National Physical Therapy Month. Each year a pediatric patient is chosen by the OMC Pediatric Task Force to be the recipient of funds raised at the event.
"We are so excited they chose to help Alissa this year. This is such a generous thing OMC and the community is doing for us," said Jennifer. "I'm happy we will finally be able to purchase some of the extra things we need to assist Alissa with her therapy at home."
Alissa has been receiving physical, occupational and speech therapy at OMC since she was 7 months old. It was at that time her family, which includes Jennifer, father Matthew Huckabee, and siblings, Joshua 11, and Samantha, 7, learned that Alissa had permanent disabilities and would require in-tensive therapy for much of her life.
"When Alissa was born we suspected something was wrong. Her head circumference was smaller than it should be and her muscle movements seemed stiff," Jennifer said. "She responded to us with smiles and laughs like a normal baby and all of the blood tests came back normal so we hoped everything was alright."
When Alissa was 7 months old, her family physician noticed Alissa's fontanel (soft spot) on the top of her head seemed to be closing earlier than usual and sent the family to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. An MRI revealed that the front part of her brain had not formed.
"We, of course, were very upset with the news, but at the same time, it was a relief to know what was wrong," Jennifer said. "Now that we had a diagnosis we knew exactly what we were dealing with and could get Alissa the therapy and treatment she needed."
Her physical therapist, Scott Vance, said she has problems controlling her muscle movements, making it difficult for her to learn how to reach out and grasp thing and learn to sit and crawl.
"She can roll over on her own occasionally and can sit up for short periods of time," Vance said. "But I'm confident, in time she will be able to do the things other kids can do such as sitting up on her own, crawling, and hopefully walking with the aid of a walker." Currently Alissa's therapy consist of exercises which help her to learn to improve her muscle control, while at the same time decreases muscle stiffness so her muscles don't shorten due to inactivity. "That therapy will be added if we are able to help the Huckabees purchase additional equipment, such as braces for her legs and hips, and wedges and bolsters the family can use to hold Alissa in position when sitting and lying down," the therapist said. "As she continues to grow she will be needing additional equipment such as bathing chairs, wheelchairs, walkers and standing frames," he added.
Although Alissa can only say a few words such as "hi," "Daddy," "Mommy," "yes," "no," and the most popular phrase, "I a good girl," she has no problem communicating her wants and needs.
Both Jennifer and Scott said Alissa continually amazes them with her abilities.
"She knows her colors and can answer questions by smiling if the answer is yes and pulling away and pouting if the answer is no," Jennifer said. "Although she can't put together a puzzle by herself due to not having muscle control, we can ask her what piece comes next and she will look at the correct piece and smile,"
"She is a very bright little girl," Vance agreed. He laughs as he recalls a time when Alissa gave him the cold shoulder treatment after seeing him holding another pediatric patient at a Christmas party sponsored by OMC Rehabilitation Services.
"It was funny but at the same time made me feel real special to know that I am making that type of impact on her life," Vance said. "Alissa is very fortunate to have so many people care about and love her. I'm really happy we will be able to provide some of the financial support she needs to help her improve her function and mobility."
Vance said he wants to encourage everyone in the community to come out and enjoy the Docs vs. Jocks basketball game.
"This is an event we look forward to every year. The game is filled with lots of skits, excitement and some good basketball playing," he said. "But most importantly it's a great opportunity to help some very special children."
Those who would like to donate to the Docs vs. Jocks fund may do so by making a freewill donation at the door the night of the game or by calling OMC Public Relations at 417-257-6735.