Reid Hintz – A Real Life Superhero

Reid, now 7 years old, has been a friend of the Health Foundation since birth. Born at the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital on October 11th, 2013 (just before Thanksgiving), one month early and weighing only 4 lbs., he spent his first few days in the NICU before being airlifted to Calgary.

Reid’s pediatrician, Dr. Hak, recognized that his newest patient had Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita*. He advised Rebecca, Reid’s mom, not to search it on the internet; it would have been far too stressful and alarming as many outcomes for this condition are not good. Instead, Jamie Herman, a NICU nurse, look for and shared with Reid’s parents the happy stories and outcomes she found.

Following his birth, Reid was fed by an eyedropper. Following the Thanksgiving weekend, he was to have a feeding tube placed. However, showing an immediate strength of character, he refused the eyedropper and latched on to mom and nursed! Dr. Hak could not believe it when he returned after the weekend.

Such has been his life to date, overcoming obstacles at every turn. His wonderful family seeing him not as disabled, but special, has helped Reid develop his confident, winning personality!

In his seven short years, Reid has had 9 surgeries to try to correct his joints to allow more movement. His hands used to be turned into his wrists, and his shoulders curved forward. Early on, the specialists had said there were no plans for his upper body due to these problems, but once again Reid proved them wrong.

The Health Foundation invested in a special chair, which vibrates and increases circulation, for the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital physiotherapy department. This chair, the surgeries, and his therapies have allowed the next part of this story to become a reality.

Reid was introduced to a team of engineering students from the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary through the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Working on their final project, an exoskeleton, they knew he was the perfect candidate to test their device, not only physically – due to his condition Reid performed most of his activities, including eating and playing, laying down – but also due to his spirit and determination.

Recently Reid appeared on Global Calgary, and in his words, he is a “ROCK STAR.” The exoskeleton developed by the team for Reid aids him with more extensive arm movement. The robotics attach sensors to his own muscles, and when his muscle fires, the motor at the elbow joint finishes the job. With time he will build new muscle memories for different movements. In the future, it will allow Reid to play games and eat independently. Reid and his family are thrilled to have been part of such an incredible project.

This project is not just a first for Canada, but also for North America. In the future, the plan is that the exoskeleton will be supplied in kits that patients can put together themselves, like Lego. The engineering team’s goal is that this technology will also be utilized for muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and stroke patients.

The Hintz family are grateful to those involved in Reid’s care locally. Rebecca considers the Children’s Allied Health Department of the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital an extension of her family. The hospital staff in NICU, Dr. Hak, physiotherapy, and CAH have been an integral part of his healthcare team along with the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The collaboration for his health and therapy programs between Medicine Hat and Calgary during Covid has been immense. The family is also very thankful for all the support they have received from the special needs community in Medicine Hat and Bow Island.

*Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC) is a seriously debilitating condition that renders the patient unable to move their arms or legs due to a severe lack of muscle development and joint contractures. Patients typically require assisted living their entire lives to perform even the most basic of daily functions requiring even the most minimal amount of dexterity in their arms or legs. Approximately 1 in 3,000 births are affected by this condition, classifying it as a rare disease.