OAT benefits another local youth
By Kristen Hembree
Destiny Lucas is 5-years-old and attends Dalhart Elementary School. She has already endured many challenges in her life. Amanda Lucas gave birth prematurely to Destiny on August 6, 2003 at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo. She was born weighing 1 pound and 14 ounces and she was 13 inches long.
Destiny’s premature life was further challenged while in the hospital when she caught infant Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). The RSV caused swelling of the brain due to a lack of oxygen which ultimately led to Cerebral Palsy (CP). “I first held my baby when she was 3 ½ months old,” said Amanda. On November 14, 2003, almost four months later, she was finally allowed to go home on an oxygen machine and with very specific instructions on how to monitor and care for her.
At six months of age, Destiny’s health was challenged again. She required eye surgery as a result of a disease called Strabismus. Strabismus, more commonly known as cross-eye or wall-eye, is a vision condition in which an individual can not align both eyes simultaneously under normal conditions. Children do not outgrow eye turns and early detection and treatment is advised. After surgery, today she no longer requires glasses and can see very clearly.
According to Amanda, Destiny has numerous cysts on the brain from the cerebral palsy. Destiny was seen every day by an Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) specialist who came to the home to assist with her physical development. She did not walk for the first time until she was 3-years-old. The cysts and CP have also created a learning disability for Destiny. Despite her disability, she is now 5 ½-years-old and on her way to Kindergarten! Amanda is so grateful for DeLane Routon, Destiny’s teacher. “She has a very wonderful teacher; she has helped to guide Destiny in the right direction.” Destiny attends Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) in the Dalhart Area Child Care Center (DACCC).
In September 2008, Destiny was still very unstable at times. It was then that Carl Bailey and his Shetland pony named “Red” came into the picture. It wasn’t much later that Carl and his wife, Peggy, shared a bigger dream. They wanted to be able to help other children besides Destiny. An article appeared in the paper which featured Destiny, Carl and Little Red. In December, the group Open Arms Therapy (OAT) was born. On their way to becoming a non-profit organization, the group now helps over 20 children and adults by offering two 30-minute riding sessions, two days a week.
In the cold of winter and in the heat of the summer, Destiny and her dad rarely miss. Michael not only leads or side-walks for Destiny, but has also assists with the other children as well. Michael and Destiny are often accompanied by Felipe. Felipe is not only Destiny’s Godfather, but a full time Volunteer for OAT. On the rare occasion that Michael is unable to bring Destiny, Felipe does his best to get her to the riding sessions.
Destiny’s smile is one of those smiles that can light up a room. She is friendly with everyone and often meets the kids and volunteers with hugs. It is obvious the riding therapy is important to her. She loves to be there. Her balance and stability is so much improved that Carl comments how when they started last September she could barely walk without tripping and now she runs and hardly trips at all!