Young Athlete Returns to Therapy 20 Years Later

Sophie Lanzel’s journey to success is well underway but, to continue, she needed to go back to where it first began.

After 20 years, she and her mother, Matilda, returned to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano rehabilitation department to reunite with the therapist who had given her mother so much more than care.

Shortly after she was born, with her right arm completely immobile, Sophie was diagnosed with brachial plexus palsy, a weakening of the nerves in the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers that causes weakness and loss of motion.

“Like any new mother, I was happy my baby was healthy but when I noticed there was no movement in her arm I immediately began to worry,” Matilda said.

Matilda was referred to pediatric occupational therapy at Texas Health Plano where she met pediatric occupational therapist, Robynne Rembecki.

“When Matilda first arrived she was concerned and in search of answers that would help her child,” Rembecki MOT, OTR, CNT said. “At the time, I was pregnant with my first child and immediately thought ‘what if this were me and my child?’ At that point, we didn’t know if therapy would help Sophie use her arm, but I knew we had to try.”

Matilda and Rembecki formed a special bond as they began working together to help Sophie. Matilda brought Sophie, who was only a few weeks old at the time, in weekly for intensive therapy that included exercises, massage and the use of electrical stimulation.

“Matilda was very dedicated to Sophie’s exercise program,” Rembecki said. “If I asked her to do exercises five times daily, she did them 10-15 times.”

Six months into therapy a work assignment took the Lanzel family out of the country. Without a social community or information on caregivers in her new home, Matilda was left wondering how she’d continue helping her baby. Rembecki assured her they’d keep in touch. And, they did.

For nearly 20 years, Rembecki and Matilda exchanged phone calls, texts and even conversations on social media. They discussed successes and progression in Sophie’s mobility and Rembecki continued to offer exercises to help.

“I was in another country with a new baby and didn’t know many people,” Matilda said. “Robynne understood that and continued to be there for us. She’s become like family.”

Sophie eventually regained use of her arm with minimal deficits. She defied the limitations of her condition as the only girl on her high school’s golf and baseball teams.  

“Once I was old enough to understand, I really appreciated what Robynne did to help my mom and me,” Sophie said. “I didn’t want to put any limitations on myself because I understood how hard she and my mom had worked. It really made an impact on me.”

Now a junior in college, Sophie continues to work hard at increasing the range of motion in her arm. She returned to the pediatric therapy department to meet Rembecki and connect with the place that inspired what she considers her calling in life.

“I believe my destiny is to do what Robynne did for me and that’s give back to children born with physical restrictions,” Sophie said.

Brachial Plexus Palsy, effects one or two out of every 1,000 babies, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. In most cases, infants may not be able to move the shoulder but, as in Sophie’s case, are able to move the fingers.

The pediatric occupational therapy program at Texas Health Plano is designed to help children with injuries, physical challenges or developmental disabilities fulfill their potential. Occupational therapists provide creative exercises and activities for children to further develop or regain skills. Services include developmental and fine motor delays, visual-motor deficits, sensory integration dysfunction, musculoskeletal disorders and neuromuscular disorders.

For additional information regarding pediatric occupational therapy services at Texas Health Hospital Plano, visit or call 972-981-8185.


1 Comment

  • Robynne Rembecki says:

    I am happy to announce that Sophie has been accepted to the occupational therapy doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh! Go Sophie go!!!

    Robynne Rembecki, MOT, OTR, CNT

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