A two-year-old who once played in the same spot on the floor of his Missouri home is now getting into trouble as any toddler would. Once unable to move around on his own, Brody Moreland is now a toddler on-the-go thanks to a unique device created by his father.
After many trials and much determination, the family created a device that helped improve the quality of life for their own child with a disabling condition. Now the family is helping children like Brody by giving the gift of mobility to those who may otherwise be unable to play like other kids.
Ready to Start a Family
Missouri newlyweds Taylor and Ally had just bought their new house and were excited for the news of their first baby on the way. The college sweethearts met at the University of Missouri.
After doctors discovered a condition 20 weeks into Ally Moreland’s pregnancy, they gave the couple a 50/50 chance that their baby would be able to walk. The young couple was in their 20s and were very dedicated to making their child’s life as rich as it could possibly be.
Making the Right Choice
In-vitro surgery, which can reduce the severity of the condition, can be performed within 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, surgeons are very selective in determining which patients qualify due to the risk of premature birth, among other possible consequences.
At this point in her pregnancy, Ally was not a good candidate because the baby’s condition was not mild. The doctors’ consensus was that the benefits did not outweigh the risks.
A New Arrival
Baby Brody Ray was born on April 3, 2017, with a spinal cord defect known as Spina Bifida (SB). SB is a congenital malformation of the neural tube, a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s spine doesn’t form normally in the womb.
The birth defect falls under the umbrella category of neural tube defects. The condition affects 1,500 infants a year in the U.S. Spina Bifida occurs in one of 1,000 births worldwide. Later, Brody was diagnosed with a second condition called spinal cord atrophy, which limits brain signal from going below his chest.
Brody had an additional deformity in his upper spinal cord that the doctors had missed and it resulted in him being basically paralyzed from his ribcage down. After his birth, doctors discovered Brody’s spinal atrophy was severe. Brody underwent two surgeries immediately after birth and another four revisional surgeries over the remainder of 2017.
Brody’s doctors and neurosurgeons did a great job, but his level of defect, coupled with newly discovered spinal cord atrophy, meant that he would have very little to no movement or control of his lower body starting below his chest.
Trying to Stay Positive
“We were devastated,” said Ally Moreland. “There was a lot of guilt and questions and worry; ‘What did I do wrong? Why did this happen to my child?’Brody spent 16 days in the NICU and received two back surgeries within a week of his birth.
This meant Brody would not be able to sit unsupported, crawl, or be mobile in any way on his own. “It essentially means he’s paralyzed from the chest down,” the first-time dad, Taylor Moreland told GMA. Brody had arm control, but no trunk control.
Not Giving Up Hope
For the first six months of his life, Brody Moreland barely moved. During this time, when his physical therapist first saw him Brody’s trunk muscles were so weak and paralyzed that he had difficulty holding his head steady when his parents carried him.
It was impossible for him to hold his trunk erect and his mom and dad had to support him while sitting. The Morelands were very devoted to Brody’s care, but Brody made little progress in his first six months. They were willing to try every option to help their child live a comfortable life.
A New Approach
Brody had absolutely no sensation below the chest. He did not respond to touch, pinpricks or ice placed anywhere in his legs or lower trunk. His lower back, abdominals, and legs were flaccid, showing no movements or muscle tension.
Brody’s physical therapist began using electrical stimulation often used for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries and for conditions like Brody’s.
At six months old, Brody’s only muscle contractions were during electrical stimulation and no spontaneous movements in his legs, even after a month of intensive electrotherapy on all his leg and trunk muscles.
With regular therapy, only small movements were seen in Brody’s ankles during spinal stimulation where electrodes were placed over the spine of his lower back and the bottoms of his feet. But soon the muscle contractions got stronger and his knees and hips moved as well.
The Morelands implemented the spinal stimulation an hour each day at home. “When Brody was about eight months old, I overheard some other parents talking about how their kids just destroyed their house and got toys everywhere,” his mom recalled.
“It almost brought me to tears because, for me, Brody wasn’t ever going to be able to do that.” After this realization, Brody’s mobility became a top priority for this family. “At first, I thought so negatively about all the things that he wouldn’t be able to do. That’s kind of where your mind goes,” Ally Moreland recalled.
“That (negativity) lasted for about a week. After that, it was like, what does it matter? In today’s day and age, anybody can be happy, anybody can be successful, there’s so much opportunity and possibility.”
Over the past 15 months, Brody started to develop feeling in his legs and trunk and now when touched with an ice cube, pinprick or pressure in different areas of his legs he showed a definite response.
“After we knew that, we quit focusing on ‘Why?’ and began focusing on, ‘How do we help him?'” said Taylor Moreland. It was important that Brody be able to crawl and play on the floor, just like other toddlers his age. It was just a matter of finding out how to achieve this.
At the suggestion of his physical therapist, Taylor Moreland first introduced his son to a scooter board — a plastic board with wheels at the bottom. This was meant to help him crawl around. It worked as a short time solution but it wasn’t enough.
Determined to Help
Brody would get his hands caught underneath his scooter board making it difficult to maneuver. The device was not comfortable enough, especially if he wanted to put his head down on the ground.
This broke his parent’s hearts to watch. Brody’s parents decided to turn that anguish into determination. Seeing his son attempting to move, sparked an intense desire to get him crawling.
Trying Something New
As Brody grew, playtime meant spending time on the floor, laying on his belly. He pushed up with his arms, but couldn’t crawl, so he’d stay in exactly the same place where his parents placed him. When Brody was about ten months old his physical therapist gave Brody a baby wheelchair.
With the help of Brody’s tremendous physical therapist, Gerti Motovalli, and a lot of practice, Brody was able to use a baby wheelchair to maneuver around the house. But it still wasn’t a solution since he couldn’t easily reach the ground where his toys were.
He’s Just Like Every Other Toddler
This was very exciting but Brody still wasn’t able to play on the floor, go certain places, or interact with toys the way other kids his age do. Brody needed a way to crawl.
“I started thinking, ‘Truly I can make something better,'” Taylor Moreland recalled. “Just seeing him try to move, that sparked it. Then it was [a] relentless drive to get him crawling.”
A Father’s Devotion
Taylor Moreland, who runs a business selling seeds and other crop products decided that it was time he took matters in his own hands. Moreland has no formal education in engineering. He grew up on a farm and runs a business selling seed and crop protection products to farmers.
So in August of 2018, Taylor started “tinkering around” and got to work developing a device that would help Brody crawl with his hands. Despite not having any previous engineering or carpentry experience, Taylor developed a test device out of leftover hardwood flooring.
In September 2018, Taylor brought his bright idea to life. Using some plywood and wheels from one of Brody’s toys, Taylor created the life-changing device. After numerous late nights and trial and error testing, he created the first “Frog.”
Taylor and Ally developed the design to fit Brody’s needs. The final product was a wooden rocker with wheels that allowed their son to pull himself with his arms, while his legs bounced freely behind him. They named the device “The Frog.”
Introducing The Frog
The device allows Brody to crawl using only his arms and provides a level of comfort for the lower half of his body. The wheeled device allows children more range of motion using their arms to move around. Straps keep the rider secure while the device tilts up and down allowing it to move with them.
It supports his body with the help of large wheels placed near his hips. It tilts up and down so he has to carry some weight in his arms just like any other baby would when crawling. When he’s tired, he can comfortably rest his head on the floor.
The large wheels meant Broday could easily roll through carpet or over a transition in a doorway. Taylor Moreland worked hard to develop the right product to help his son. The couple named the device the Frog. Since Brody looked like “a little frog” as he crawled and teetered on the device, his mother said.
This invention was truly life-changing for Brody. Before The Frog, Brody was stuck on the floor wherever his parents put him, and he had a very hard time playing with most of his toys. But once Brody started using the frog his life changed overnight.
“It was a really slow progression,” Taylor said. “It took time for him to learn how to use it and it took time for me to develop it.” After he started using The Frog, he was able to roam around the house, chase the cat, play with toys and do everything that any crawling baby could do. His cognitive development exploded over this period. For the first time, he was able to truly explore his world.
“I feel like it has definitely given him a stronger personality,” mom Ally Moreland said. “It has given him a sense of independence. I think it has had a lot to do with his development over the last year. It provides a whole new experience,” she said.
A Mission to Help Others
Thanks to The Frog, Brody’s cognitive development has improved. It has helped him interact more with his surroundings and develop his personality. Brody is now mobile and independent.
Once Taylor saw the difference The Frog made for Brody, he knew he wanted to help other children.“I knew that I had to get this out to other kids too,” Taylor said. The Morelands are now creating more of these devices so that children like Brody can experience mobility in a new way.
Making a Difference
The Morelands started building more Frogs to give to other families. One Frog takes them about three hours to make and costs $300, but they didn’t want to burden other parents who may be dealing with hefty medical bills.
So Taylor and Ally started a GoFundMe page to offset the cost for families that couldn’t spend $300 on a Frog. Today, the fundraiser has generated more than $100,000 in donations. The couple asks families to simply pay what they can for the device.
Physical Therapist Approved
Taylor started by making a few Frogs for other kids who were also working with Brody’s physical therapist. Gerti Motavalli, Brody’s physical therapist, said she’s introduced the Frog to four children so far.
Brody’s therapist said she’s a fan of The Frog since it works for all the back and shoulder muscles necessary for good posture, and can be adjusted to the level of work the child uses to move it. “I have been working for 32 years with children and there has been nothing like this on the market,” she said.
Hard Work Pays Off
The family started producing the units out of their home in order to help others like Brody. Then, the family launched a company, Frog Mobility LLC, and have made the device for 20 children in the U.S. At nights Taylor works at his home building Frogs from foam core plastic.
A patent is pending and about 20 kids across the U.S. are currently using the device in addition to Brody. There is a list of children waiting for their own Frog. It’s that reality that continues to drive their venture to help as many other families as possible to have the same experience.
Sharing the Love
“Most of the kids who have them now, have found out through our network of physical therapists or our GoFundMe page,” Taylor Moreland said. “I never thought this would be something that would help another kid.”
“The goal right now is to get kids moving,” Taylor Moreland said. “Before we had The Frog, we put him on the floor and that’s where he was going to be 30 minutes later. He can now explore and do what he wants to do.”
He (Brody) can chase the cat, open drawers, play with his cousins, explore on his own and “be crazy like any toddler should be,” Ally noted. Since he’s started to explore on his own, Brody has become more curious and has started talking more, his dad added.
“It was so great to see his little mind working on its own. He would go get the toys he wanted to play with and he would come rolling up to us and ask us something… we look over and he’s gone. Where did he go?” Taylor said, laughing.
A Unique Concept
The design of The Frog enables a child to be secure on the device and be more independent for exploring, which is needed for achieving various developmental tasks.
The device promotes increased shoulder strength and stability, plus increased head and trunk control. The Frog also boosts visual perceptual skills and cognitive skills. It allows children to move freely on their tummies by using their arms.
Mobility for All
Thanks to this father’s determination to see his son crawl, many kids around the country are being blessed with the gift of mobility. After kids are strapped in, the device moves with their bodies.
Ally and Taylor have sent Frogs to kids across the country, and the success has been overwhelming. The couple is working to fill more than 40 additional orders. Their goal is to “get to as many kids who can benefit as possible,” Ally said.
The couple gave the “gift of mobility” to four children in central Missouri before creating a fundraiser account which has raised well over $100,000 in donations, surpassing their initial goal of $50,000.
The GofundMe account is called “Helpbrodygetkidsmoving” and is growing by the minute thanks to an outpour of support. Many have been inspired by Brody’s story and want to help others living with this condition to achieve the same level of progress and cognitive development.
The Moreland couple also started a website called www.frogmobilityllc.com with more information about The Frog device and Brody’s story. With a patent-pending, the Morelands hope to move it forward to the commercial market.
Taylor Moreland now has a growing waiting list of orders. He creates them at home using a computer numerical control (CNC) machine that cuts out the shape from light, rigid plastic based on his design. The Frog works for kids ages 6 months to 3 years; Moreland is also working on a larger version for kids up to 6 years old.
A Group Effort
Brody’s amazing transformation is due to the determination and skill of a physical therapist, Gerti Motavalli, his parents’ intense commitment to helping their son, and to the application of a spinal electrical stimulation technique used on SB patients. Although Brody still has a long way to go, that success holds out hope for other children born with SB who can get early intervention.
“To see your little one do something you never thought was possible is pretty fun,” Ally said, adding the family has been overwhelmed by the attention. “Brody now rolls around saying, ‘I’m famous’ all the time.”
A New Addition Coming
Even more exciting news for the Morelands; Brody is going to be a big brother. The family is ecstatic! And they will definitely have their hands full. “He is a very curious little boy,” said Ally Moreland. “I just love his can-do attitude. In his mind, he’s not different.”
“There are toys to pick up now,” Ally Moreland told Good Morning America. “It’s exciting to watch him change. In the beginning, his cognitive development exploded as soon as he became mobile.” “He is probably the most active 2-year-old who can’t move his legs in the world,” dad Taylor added.
The Frog has already impacted the lives of many other children in the U.S. One being, a 12-month-old boy with Down syndrome. The device helped him to figure out how to use his arms for crawling.
Another child has a feeding tube and was not comfortable lying on her tummy. Using padding she is able to use The Frog without pain and move around successfully. The third is a child with very little muscle strength.
The Moreland family has also helped a young boy named Max with the same condition as Brody. Max is almost a year and a half and was also born with Spina bifida. He received The Frog from the Morelands, and after strapping into The Frog it was the first time he was able to move around the room on his own.
Max has had nine surgeries but doesn’t let that stop him from being his amazing self. He was diagnosed with Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus at 15 weeks. The family looked into fetal surgery but they did not qualify due to the nature of his condition.
He is still learning how to move throughout the whole house but that will come with time and practice. He started playing in it for just about 5 minutes at a time and now loves to stay in it for over 50 minutes. His mom ordered the device as soon as she saw a video of Brody in it because she knew it was life-changing and knew Max needed it.
Max wears knee braces at home. He is a very determined toddler. He doesn’t let his condition get in the way of having fun. The Frog has really helped improve the quality of life and cognitive development. His mom has posted videos of him cruising around on The Frog.
Plenty of Options
“Typically, children with spina bifida will have difficulty with mobility,” she says Amy Meyer, PT, ATP. “In lower-level lesions, children are expected to ambulate to some degree, but the acquisition of this mobility is delayed. Therefore, mobility devices such as manual or power wheelchairs may be prescribed.”
Patients with Spina Bifida can potentially benefit from a range of equipment, including, orthotics, standing devices, and wheeled mobility devices. Intervention should happen early to give the child with spina bifida every chance to become independently mobile as soon as possible.
While children with lower-level spina bifida may eventually learn to walk, Meyer cites studies that measured the often extensive amounts of energy that these children need to expend to ambulate. The studies showed that children with spina bifida use much more energy to walk than their able-bodied peers need to.
Therapist Amy Meyer suggests, “children need to have a means of functional, efficient mobility that doesn’t utilize all of their energy — and allows them to fully participate in life as their peers do. Like all patients, children with spina bifida need to be treated holistically, and family involvement and support are a must for good follow-through.”
In general, kids with this condition have difficulty with separation from parents — partly due to parents having a difficult time letting these children be independent. “Also, another thing I have noticed is the difficulty separating from the equipment,” says Meyer.
This includes changing from one wheelchair to a new wheelchair — even if it is nearly identical to the current chair. Their mobility equipment truly becomes an extension of their body, and it is hard to part with something that has helped them be independent for so long.
Help is Available
While there currently is no cure for spina bifida, the right assistive technology introduced at the right time can go a long way toward helping children with this condition to be as independent as possible.
A physical therapist can work with children, parents, and caregivers to teach them how to exercise the child’s legs to increase strength, flexibility, and movement. Regular physical activity is important for all children, but especially for those with conditions that affect movement, such as Spina Bifida.
There are many support groups and communities willing to offer assistance. In addition, many online resources exist that offer a great deal of helpful information.
Today we live in an age where technology is thriving and good people are willing to help others. Awareness and a positive outlook are crucial in regards to this life-altering condition. Every child has the ability to live a happy and fulfilling life and we are thankful to the Morelands for helping others achieve this goal.