Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cowboy Dominic- YeeHaw!

Dominic getting ready for therapy!
As soon as we pulled up to the ranch, we were greeted by Dominic's physical therapist, wearing her usual inviting smile along with two Jerusalem donkeys (the kind with crosses on their backs) who were not of the shy type.  In fact, they were so eager to greet their new visitors we were wetted by their slobbery, bristly lips while walking to the barn.  Mary was not a fan of their boldness and kept hid behind my mom who had escorted us to help out.  On the barn porch was a small but rather portly little pig named Hamilton, his muzzle down in a bowl of food, snorting and slobbering his way into Mary Grace's heart.  She would have gone closer to play with him but Jasmine and Belle (the donkeys) wanted a lick of that sweet girl, which was enough to deter her from any further friendship with the sweet little piglet.

We walked into the barn and I was taken aback by the enormous horse who was standing in front of me.  Because I have not yet learned a solitary thing about this new type of physical therapy using horses, I assumed a little guy like Dominic would be on a little horse, just his size.  But instead there stood in front of us a giant of a horse, a 24 year old draft horse, the type with long fur encircling his ankles.  He was being groomed and eating treats, great globs of green-treat slobber falling from his mouth.  We patted his head and I helped Dominic feel his fur.  Dominic showed his excitement by raising his eyebrows in the curious way he does- that way that speaks for his whole body.  That boy sure does have great eyebrows.  What he lacks in the ability to express himself with his body, he makes up with great, expressive eyebrows. 

Dominic was fitted with his helmet and off to the arena we went (drove actually because I'm too lazy to carry that big ol' boy that far).  I guess by now you are wondering why in the world we are at a ranch, looking a horse, and putting a helmet on Dominic, eh?  He has started hippotherapy, which is physical therapy using a horse as a modality, or tool, to facilitate the desired movements in the patient.  Children can start at the age of two and his physical therapist just happens to be a certified hippotherapist!  Back to the story.  To mount the horse, there is a big box, about 4 feet high where we all stand.  The therapist mounted first then took Dominic and sat him in front of her.  The whole session, there was a horse-leader and two side-walkers (my mom and myself) to make sure Dominic was safe and sound.  We walked with that horse around the arena for about 30 minutes and Dominic would off and on smile, showing his pleasure of being on top of his new friend named Dixie.  The therapy was fun, but very tiring for him, and after 30 minutes he was just about a little mush-pot.  We gave him a rest and our sweet therapist let each of the other kids have a turn riding Dixie for a few minutes.  She realized how the siblings of special needs children often get pushed to the side, unable to do the "fun" stuff like play during therapy or get all the attention from the doctors and nurses.  I am so grateful for her heart that is open to the needs of the siblings too- that is a rare find to be sure.

MiMi enjoying the beautiful scenery
After our session, we plopped our tired selves into the van and rode back to the barn where sweet Dixie was un-tacked and let to cool down.  We all fed her treat pellets as a reward for doing such a good job and she covered us in green slime, though this time thicker and more abundant due to the hard work she just finished.  I was helping Dominic put a pellet up to her lips when I heard that familiar whistle.  I looked down and sure enough Dominic's trach had popped right out.  I yelled to my mom "the trach is out!" and she ran lightening-fast to the car to get the trach bag.  I laid Dominic down on the barn floor (where an hour ago the donkeys were inspecting us) and unable to get the trach in time I used my grimy hands to put the same trach back in- having to touch the part that goes in his neck.  He smiled, as usual, when he's given us near-heart attack moments, and I froze for an instant realized what just happened.  You'd think you would get use to the whole decannulation thing, but I never seem to.  Something about the whole 'can't breathe without this thing and turning blue' business that gets me.  I'm sure your nose is wrinkled right now thinking about my horse-slobbered, dust-covered, barn-dirt (nice word for manure) containing hands touching that trach to put it back in, but hey... he's survived worse!  And after all, a little dirt is good for kids... right???

During that session when I saw him slowly start to sit more upright, start to hold his head a little higher, look around as if a tad bit more alert I felt the first glimmer of hope in his improvement that I have had in quite some time.  Normally, I fully expect him to continue to decline in function, but that little sweet bag-o-treats just keeps proving me wrong.  I am hopeful this new therapy will help him gain the strength to enjoy his family, his home, and his environment just a little bit more.  Who knows, maybe he'll even learn to sit all by himself!

So here's a heart-felt thank you to his sweet therapist and her unyielding commitment to make his life just a little better.  Ride on, Cowboy Dom!
Anthony getting his turn.  (Ignore my high-waters.  What, you didn't see them til' now?  Shucks)
Mary Grace refused to go alone so her bug bubba Jake obliged and let her tag along.  :)

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