Surf session brings joy to children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Aaron, featured in the video, has type I SMA.
Ricochet, the amazing surfing dog has been creating unique surfing experiences for individuals with disabilities for over seven years. She recently had an incredible first – surfing with a child unable to breath on her own. Three-year-old Bailey had a big, beaming smile on her face as she took to the surf board, her mom beside her holding her breathing machine.
Bailey suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which is a disease that affects the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking the ability to move around, swallow or even breathe. It is responsible for more infant deaths than any other genetic disease. Bailey has type I SMA, the worst and most common type.
However, recently Bailey, and several fellow SMA sufferers defied the disease that affects them so cruelly, and participated in a special surf session with Ricochet and Cure SMA.
A bath chair attached to the surf board to support any children unable to hold up their own head. Cradled safely in the bath chair, surrounded by a team of skilled volunteers, the children were thrilled to take to the sea. Bearing in mind the profound nature of the children’s disability, safety had to be a high priority, and the combined expertise of the water team and Ricochet safeguarded the children’s wellbeing.
Like Bailey, some of the children have a tracheostomy, which is a surgical procedure to create an opening in the trachea, enabling them to breathe. It was imperative not to allow water to enter the opening, as this could lead to pneumonia, and therefore every time a wave came into shore, the team picked up the surfboard.
Staying in very shallow water, the water team chose small waves into which to lower the board, and walk it back to the shore. Once the board came to a stop, it was raised out of the water by the team, providing the child with the surf experience with Ricochet while keeping them safe.
Bailey’s older sister, Riley, is five years old, and has type II SMA. Despite not being able to hold up her head unaided, she was determined to be first into the water on Ricochet’s surfboard.
As Judy, Ricochet’s owner, puts it, “For a child with SMA, going from a stroller full of gear to a surfboard full of cheer gives both the child and the parents the opportunity to do something they never thought possible.”
Those children for whom it was deemed safe, were allowed further out into the water, but always had a volunteer on hand and the whole team standing ready nearby.
All the first-time surfers – and their parents – had a wonderful day.
Ricochet and Judy are on a mission to raise awareness of SMA, and the issues its sufferers face.
There are four primary types of SMA – I, II, III and IV. Type I is the most severe and the most common. Type II is less sever, with suffers usually able to sit up with help, but unable to walk. Type III typically doesn’t stop the sufferer walking, but mobility problems increase with age. Type IV is rare, and is usually not diagnosed until adulthood, when it can cause mild motor impairment.
As Judy explains, “Our non-profit, Puppy Prodigies is blessed with volunteer water men and women who are very highly skilled, trained and experienced in surfing, dog handling, and the disabled community. Couple that with an Executive Director who has a degree in service dog training, plus a dog who has extensive training as a service dog, and you have a team that prides themselves on high standards. Our number one priority is safety and we abide by all the rules, regulations and laws governing the unique work we do. Our insurance covers Ricochet, those she surfs with, and our volunteers. It is because of these practices that we are able to provide these surf sessions with the utmost conviction.
“Thank you to Cure SMA, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, and especially the parents for trusting us with your children.”
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