Open Arms Therapy (OAT) - Dalhart (TX) equine therapy for the disabled

Destiny Lucas

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In March of 2010 Destiny's family chose to move Destiny to a new program.  We want to thank the family for volunteering their time and for allowing us to share in Destiny's progress over the past year.  We also want to wish them well. 

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Destiny Lucas

Destiny Lucas is 5 years old and attends Dalhart Elementary school. She has already endured many challenges in her life.  Amanda Lucas gave birth prematurely to Destiny on August 6, 2003 at Northwest Texas hospital in Amarillo, Texas. She was born weighing 1 pound and 14 ounces and she was 13 inches long. Due to the premature nature in which Destiny was born her mother was not allowed to see her till the following day in NICU. She was on a breathing machine which is called a high frequency ventilator and she was fed threw a tube in her nose. For Amanda; her role as a mother was just beginning.  The following days were spent sitting next to her baby girl as she lay in the incubator.  It was like a roller-coaster ride; never knowing what each day would bring.  Amanda would worry each night as she left the hospital and then each day as she returned to find Destiny alive and well she was filled with joy. 

Destiny’s premature life was further challenged while in the hospital when she caught infant Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).  RSV is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children.  It causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages.  It is also highly contagious1.  According to Amanda; it was the RSV which led to Cerebral Palsy (CP).  Cerebral Palsy is a broad term used to describe a group of chronic movement or posture disorders.  CP is not caused by problems with the muscles or nerves but rather with the brains ability to adequately control the body.  CP can be caused by injury during birth, although sometimes it is the result of later damage to the brain2.  The RSV caused swelling of the brain due to a lack of oxygen.  “My life was turned up side down” said Amanda.  As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months she began to grow into a beautiful little baby girl. “I first held my baby when she was 3 ½ months old” said Amanda.  This was when Amanda was finally allowed to give her a bottle for the first time. Soon the day came to bring Destiny home; it was November 14, 2003.  Destiny was almost four months old.  She was taken home on oxygen machines and with very specific instructions on how to monitor and care for her.  At that time Amanda and Destiny lived with Amanda’s parents, Randy and Thelma Lucas of Dalhart, Texas.

At 6 months of age; Destiny’s health was challenged again.  She required eye surgery as a result of a disease called Strabismus.  Strabismus, more commonly known as cross-eye or wall-eye, is a vision condition in which an individual can not align both eyes simultaneously under normal conditions.  Children do not outgrow eye turns and early detection and treatment is advised3.  The surgery was done in Amarillo and her recovery was successful.  She wore glasses for a time.  Today she no longer requires glasses and can see very clearly.  Every year Destiny visits a Shriners Hospital to make sure her muscles are growing well and to be sure her balance is good.  Shriners Hospitals for Children is a one-of-a-kind international health care system dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing specialty pediatric care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programs4.  Amanda recalls at… “Our first visit we were given braces for my daughter to learn balance and stability”.  Without the braces she could not have learned to balance on her own.  Amanda and Destiny travel to Lubbock Texas every six months to visit special doctors who would monitor Destiny’s brain.

Destiny was seen every day by an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) 5 specialist who came to the home. The specialist helped Destiny learn to be strong and aided the family in helping Destiny to develop properly.  Destiny did not sit up till she was almost nine months old and she started scooting around on her knees at two years old.  She began walking when she was 3 years old.  Amanda shares that there were many people there at this time helping her to take her first steps - ECI, family and friends and she says “we were ecstatic to see her take her first steps”.  The ECI worked diligently with Destiny for 3 years. 

According to Amanda, Destiny has numerous cysts on the brain from the cerebral palsy. Due to the cysts and CP; it has created a learning disability for Destiny.  Despite her disability she is now 5 ½ years old and is on her way to Kindergarten!   Amanda is so thankful for DeLane Routon, Destiny’s teacher. “She has a very wonderful teacher” she has helped to guide Destiny in the right direction”.  Destiny attends Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) 6 in the Dalhart Area Child Care Center (DACCC) building were they teach her the skills she will need in Kindergarten.   

In September 2008 Destiny was still very unstable at times.  It was then that Carl Bailey and his Shetland pony named “Red” came into the picture.   Carl offered to use Red to provide a means to help her with her balance and stability.  The next thing she knew “we were in the rain taking picture’s of Destiny on Red”; said Amanda.  Destiny’s father, Michael Ballejo and Godfather, Felipe Lugo began to help Carl to teach her to ride, groom, and even lead little Red.  It didn’t take long before Destiny fell in love with Red.   “We soon started to notice there were other sick children that needed Carl’s help and Destiny’s support”, said Amanda. It wasn’t much later that Carl and his wife Peggy shared a bigger dream.  They wanted to be able to help other children besides Destiny.  An article appeared in the paper which featured Destiny, Carl and little Red. 

In December the group Open Arms Therapy (OAT) was born.  On their way to becoming a non-profit organization; the group now helps over 20 children and adults by offering 2, 30 minute riding sessions, two days a week.  OAT has received much support from the community and many wonderful people have donated horses, time and money. The therapy was offered at an indoor arena owned by Patsy and Hardy Gordon for the winter months and now it is held in the round pen near Destiny’s home.  The round pen is provided by Dell and Linda Peoples and P-P Trucking.  “To see the look on each and every child’s face is so amazing” says Amanda.  It brings joy to her heart to know that Destiny, her miracle child, has helped touch and change many children’s lives. “The help and support of the people in this community has helped to make O.A.T. the successful program that it is today”.

Amanda is so thankful for Destiny's dad who takes her to each riding session.  In the cold of winter and in the heat of the summer the two of them rarely miss.  Michael not only leads or side-walks for Destiny but has also assisted with the other children as well.  He has a quiet, laid-back personality and is he good with the horses and the kids.  Michael rides horses also.  His knowledge of horses and riding will be a real asset as Destiny's abilities improve.  Destiny has been riding long enough that she has started to ride independently; without a side-walker or someone leading the horse.  But even though she rides independently Michael is right there keeping a watchful eye to keep her safe.  Michael and Destiny are often accompanied by Felipe.  Felipe is not only Destiny's Godfather but a full time Volunteer for OAT.  On the rare occasion that Michael is unable to bring Destiny, Felipe does his best to get her to the riding sessions.  Destiny is very lucky to have such a caring and dedicated Dad and a Godfather who is actively involved with her life.


Destiny looks forward to seeing every face at therapy and telling everybody about her riding sessions.  Destiny's smile is one of those smiles that can light up a room.  She is friendly with everyone and often meets the kids and volunteers with hugs.  It is obvious the riding therapy is important to her.  She loves to be there and s
he looks forward to telling everybody about her riding sessions.  Her balance and stability is so much improved that Carl comments how when they started last September she could barely walk without tripping and now she runs and hardly trips at all!  Amanda and Michael would like to thank OAT and all the wonderful people that have helped in any way with the therapy.   “Every donation is a hand to helping a child’s future…” Thank you - Amanda Lucas and Michael Ballejo


References:

  1. http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/rsv.html
  2. http://www.cerebralpalsy.org/what-is-cerebral-palsy/
  3. http://www.strabismus.org/
  4. http://www.shrinershq.org/Hospitals/Main/
  5. http://www.dars.state.tx.us/ecis/
  6. http://www.texasprojectfirst.org/PreschoolProg.html

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