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OT Spotlight: Finding Joy in New Beginnings

Numa Esteban Osuna, known to his family as “Numita”, was your typical healthy and very active six-year old boy.

He loved the pool and, in fact, learned to swim on his own by the time he was 3. He also enjoyed building legos, riding his bike, playing baseball, going to the playground and having pillow fights...

Then on July 13, 2016, in an instant everything changed for the Osuna family.

Numita suffered an arteriovenous malformation (AVM).

AVM is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain. The arteries are responsible for taking blood from the heart to the brain, while veins carry the oxygen-depleted blood back to the lungs and heart. A brain AVM throws a major wrench in this fundamental process.

“An AMV ruptured inside his brain,” said Lula Vera, Numita’s mother. “His intracranial pressure was so high that he ended up having a near-fatal stroke. The doctors told us he would not survive more than 48 hours.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, an AVM can develop anywhere in your body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. Even so, brain AVMs are rare and affect less than 1 percent of the population. The cause of AVMs is not clear. Most people are born with them, but they can occasionally form later in life. They are rarely passed down among families genetically.

“The stroke took away his voice and all his functions so now he can’t do the things he once loved,” said Vera. “But that was just the beginning of his new beginning.”

Numita’s family decided to look into alternative therapies to help him recover. After doing some internet research, they found NVTRP.

“When we told Numita’s grandma that we were on our way (to NVTRP) for a tour, she told us that the night before she had a dream that Numita was playing with horses. She didn’t even know we were interested in doing this,” recalled Vera. “That was a beautiful sign so we knew we wanted to stick with this!”

Numita started occupational therapy with Dr. Amanda Iannotti at NVTRP in the Fall of 2018.

NVTRP provides physical therapy and occupational therapy using the horse movement as a modality. Physical and occupational therapists use this treatment strategy, called hippotherapy, to achieve functional goals for people who live with disabilities or impairments. The motivation of receiving therapy with the help of a horse, increases progress and results.

“Numita enjoys the movement of the horse while he rides around the arena. He also relaxes a lot when he is riding in a sitting position," explained Vera. “The equine movement is helping to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems while achieving functional outcomes. (As you can see in the video) he is making awesome steps!”

While some of the challenges Numita faces include high tone on his upper extremities and decreased head control, he looks forward to his time at NVTRP.

“He loves patting the horses,” said Vera. “While he loves riding all the horses, we are definitely going to miss our beloved horse, Happy (who recently retired from the program).”

Regardless of what the future holds, Numita will always have the support of his loving family… and the help of some very special equine partners.

“As parents, we always tell him that while he recovers he is going to have fun no matter what... We may not control all the events that happen to us, but we can decide not to be reduced by them.”


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