In 2017, Sebastian was an active Foothills elementary school student, able to walk, play at recess, and engaged in sports. Then one day, he was sent home from fencing practice with pain in his leg, For Sebastian, his mother, Gina, and their family, life was about to change drastically.
The next morning, Sebastian woke up in extreme pain, unable to put any weight on his leg. A mystery to local physicians, he used crutches to get around, and struggled through physical therapy appointments, experiencing pain of a "12" on a 10-point scale. He was prescribed heavy pain medicines and immune-modulators, under the incorrect diagnosis of juvenile arthritis. By August 2017, Sebastian was in a wheelchair, and he and his mother were at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), with a diagnosis of Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS). They were separated from family, Sebastian was absent from school, and for five weeks they lived in Philadelphia, where he participated successfully in an intensive outpatient treatment program.
The correct diagnosis and actual treatment at CHOP was just the beginning of the healing process. Sebastian had not only endured the physical pain of his condition, but also the psychological stress of misdiagnosis and the drastic change of life to a 'new normal', completely dependent, in a wheelchair. He may have left the wheelchair behind at CHOP, but there were reminders that life was still not the same. Upon return to school, there were new kids in the class, a different classroom dynamic. Life had gone on, and Sebastian was someone they had only heard about. Sebastian was back physically, but he was not back to his normal self. He was reluctant to talk, to contribute, to agree enthusiastically to being involved in anything. Since stress can trigger recurrence of AMPS, CHOP specialists emphasized the importance of managing anxiety and recommended daily physical activity, especially outdoors. Gina opened her email and clicked on the TRAK newsletter of the month, which described an upcoming volunteer orientation. She and Sebastian attended, knowing it sounded just like what the doctor had ordered! Indeed, Sebastian's reluctance to participate has begun to shift since he has been volunteering twice a week with Gina at the ranch. She has observed Sebastian's personality restored, full of wit, and humor. He has a renewed positive outlook, saying 'yes' to new opportunities and playdates. "The love he always had for life itself is coming back", Gina said gratefully. Indeed, this interviewer was received with much enthusiasm and observed a thriving child with a positive, can-do attitude!
When a child becomes the recipient of intensive services and treatment, no matter what the diagnosis, they often lose confidence in themselves and their ability. TRAK was created for this very purpose, with the vision of empowering youth who are the recipients of services into animal experts who serve their community as service providers. The outdoor, physical nature of ranching and therapeutic animal interaction are the force behind what we like to call 'TRAK Magic'. We are delighted to have Sebastian and Gina as part of our ranch family, and look forward to watching him to continue to grow and flourish!