"I have seen the facilities here at Kennedy Krieger and am quite impressed with all the specialized treatment and therapies and counseling. It's terrific."
View full interview to learn more about Peter's experience at the Institute and his current advocacy work on behalf of individuals with cerebral palsy.
Peter Riddleberger was a private patient of Dr. Winthrop Phelps, founder of the Children's Rehabilitation Institute, for 21 years, from 1940 through 1961.
Mr. Riddleberger was a toddler when a doctor in Boston, puzzled by the weakness he observed on the boy's right side, recommended that his parents contact Winthrop Phelps in Baltimore. "He said that Phelps might be able to diagnose me properly and he did," says Mr. Riddleberger. The diagnosis was spastic paralysis, he notes. "I don't think they called it cerebral palsy back then."
Several times each year the family would visit Baltimore to see Dr. Phelps. "He would examine me and adjust my braces," Mr. Riddleberger recalled. "I wore a brace on my right leg and my right arm. It was quite heavy, a leather shoe with an iron bar that came up the side both on my leg and my right arm."
Because of shortages during World War II, Mr. Riddleberger says when his feet outgrew the shoe, Dr. Phelps simply cut off the leather at the toe. "I remember somebody saying 'what if it's cold?' and Dr. Phelps saying, 'put a sock on it'."
Mr. Riddleberger was able to remove his braces as a college student and eventually lost touch with the doctor whom he calls "a remarkable man." He attributes his success in life to Dr. Phelps and to his parents, who encouraged him to face his problems and overcome them. "They wanted to make sure I had the confidence to do what I could," he said.
He married, had children and enjoyed a successful career with the World Bank. During those busy years, he lost touch with the disability community. But in retirement, he happened to visit a clinic for children with disabilities in Russia. That experience led him to contact Kennedy Krieger. He now works with parent groups and supports the work of the Institute in many ways.
"I have seen the facilities here at Kennedy Krieger and am quite impressed with all the specialized treatment and therapies and counseling," he says. "It's terrific. I do the best I can to help that along and contribute."
He is particularly enamored of the new swimming pool as it recalls the happiest moments of his own childhood. "When I was a kid, I loved to swim. I could take my braces off and I would just be buoyant. It was so wonderful. Now that's become part of regular therapy. It's extraordinary."
Visit patientcare.kennedykrieger.org to learn more about the Institute's diagnostic and treatment programs.