On Their Own Two Feet

A TIME columnist bears witness to an operation to help triplets with cerebral palsy walk like other boys

Cindy Hickman nearly bled to death the day she gave birth--three months prematurely--to her triplet sons. Weighing less than 2 lbs. each, her babies were alive, but barely. They clung so tenuously to life that her doctors recommended she name them A, B and C. Then, after a year of heroic interventions--brain shunts, tracheotomies, skull remodeling--often requiring emergency helicopter rides to the hospital nearest their rural Tennessee home, the Hickmans learned that their triplets had cerebral palsy.

Fifteen years ago there wasn't much that could be done about cerebral palsy, a disorder caused by damage to the motor centers of the...

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