It was a weekday afternoon and I was glancing at a Parenting Magazine (which I usually never do). I came across an article about how Personal Ponies was helping make miracles for children with special needs. Although the farm was close to an hour away, I called and was able to set up an appointment for my daughter Raffaella.I hung up the phone with Sandra (the Florida State Director) and for the first time in a long time, had a renewed feeling of hope. I called every friend I had! I was so excited to bring Raffy to meet the Ponies.
Raffaella had a cardiac arrest due to Pulmonary Hypertension and oxygen deprivation at birth. A forceful resuscitation along with lack of oxygen is believed to have caused her brain damage. She is globally delayed, she eats only by G-Tube and when I first brought her to meet her ponies, she was completely mute. I was told by many doctors that she would never walk, never talk, and probably never eat by mouth. All in all, a bleak future, and one that I was not ready to accept.
With time, preservation, prayers and lots of tears, Raffaella is not only walking, but walking her Ponies!!!! That in itself is a miracle; Raffaella proving the doctors wrong! However, the biggest miracle was still yet to come. Raffaella approaching 4 years old, going to all types of therapy, in a special needs program at school was not showing any signs of speaking; and I, as her mother, was beginning to come to terms and face the fact, that my daughter would be mute. I was losing hope, so we slowly began signing. This was about the same time that we began spending time with Sandra and the Personal Ponies.
The first couple of visits did not go so well. Sandra was optimistic and told me, not to worry that it might just take some time. The very next week, we arrived at the farm and Raffaella marched right into the stall and began interacting with the miracle ponies. I will never forget Sandra and I looking at each other in shock as Raffy took the lead rope and proudly walked off with her Pony.
After Raffy finally warmed up to her Ponies, we started to do more and more with her. One Friday afternoon, Sandra told her to say "Whooooa", like she has done many times before, however, this time our Raffaella repeated perfectly to her Pony that day, "Whooooa". Since that time Raffaella is trying so hard to speak. She is trying to get out sounds and can actually say a couple words now. I credit this to her time with these miracle ponies and to Sandra who's dedication and outlook has been an inspiration to me. She told me once that a good friend of hers named Marina, said, "put no limits on our children and they will have no limitations".
Raffaella has changed my life I am the luckiest mother to have been given the privilege to have her. Every day, I look at her and see a special child, a walking miracle and Sandra and her Ponies are a big part of that miracle.
I have no words to express the gratitude for Sandra's dedication and how she has changed our lives because she has shared these Ponies with us!
Linda (Raffaella's Mommy)
THOUGHTS FROM SANDRA
When the phone rang, something told me it was another parent calling who had read the recent PARENTING Magazine article about Personal Ponies and was interested in getting more information. I listened carefully to the sound of a hopeful mommy as she told me about her daughter Raffaella and her rough start in life. I could hear the sound of pain in her voice and dreaded the thought of telling her that we had a waiting list for one-on-one weekly pony time. Then she told me that they lived on Miami Beach. I explained to her how far away we were located and without hesitation she said "When can we come!!!!?" We scheduled a session a half-hour before my first Friday child was to arrive. I just couldn't say "NO!" I KNEW our program could help and I KNEW in my heart I was dealing with a mommy that would go to the moon and back and still find the energy to take her child to therapy! I was right on ALL counts!
It has been a thrill for me to work with Raffaella each week. I have watched her change from fearful and unsure to an enthusiastic little girl with an "I CAN" attitude! Like MAGIC, on her third visit, the barn became a comfortable "home" and the ponies all became her new little friends. I melt when she embraces them....I smile when I hear her try to make the sounds of "WALK ON" and my heart pounds with pride when she takes the lead rope independently and goes for a walk! Every little step is a BIG future for Raffy! I'm so glad those steps include our Personal Ponies!!!!