Dear friends at Rifton,
It's been some time ... I've been meaning to update you forever on Emma. She has had some exciting progress that I thought you might enjoy.
We've had an awesome year. It’s almost 2 years since we first got our Pacer. Last Spring Emma led a team, (Team EMMA! of course) in the Easter Seals Walk With Me walkathon. She had a team of 17 who collectively raised a few thousand dollars. It was so inspiring to have such an outpouring of support from friends and family.
About that time I was reading about a child using a gait trainer in a posterior fashion and I thought, “Boy I wonder if that would help Emma.” She was afraid of having nothing in front of her as support, visually and physically. Perhaps using the Pacer in the reverse position would help her get over this.
So we switched Emma's Pacer around (from anterior to posterior) and she really took off. We went to the school parking lot and just let her go. I would move away from her and she would walk herself over to me. One of the lots had a slight downward slope, which she loved. She enjoyed the feeling of speed, and the smile and laughter was evidence of it! What a thrill for both of us.
My brother got married in October. They asked Emma to be a flower girl in their wedding. We were so incredibly excited when he asked, reassuring us that they didn't care how she got down the aisle, by motorized car, in a chair, however. They just wanted Emma to be a part of their wedding.
Everyone who worked with Emma was on board to get her to walk down that aisle as a flower girl. Her PTs, her teachers and aides, her hippotherapy team, everyone's goals were working toward this dream.
Because Emma was doing so well in her Pacer, her PTs brought out a Rollator walker to try for the next level of walking. One day in late July, I arrived at school (ESY program) and, as always, asked how Emma's day had been. Her PT's response was, "Not a bad day if you consider walking independently with her Rollator walker.” Holy Cow! Tears, joy, hugs, tissues! Emma was going to walk down that aisle in her pretty flower girl dress!
Emma surprised us by taking independent steps in the Rollator walker. Now we were really on a mission. Getting down a church aisle is no small task.
The wedding was to be held along the water, but thankfully there was a concrete path to where the ceremony would take place. Still, we had to get about 75 feet. Everywhere we went that summer we were on the look out for strip malls with covered walkways, both to keep Emma out of the sun and for practice. I'm sure I looked more than a little nutty pulling up to shopping centers, popping the hatch on our wagon, setting up the walker and then running back to the car to get Emma so she could practice. I would set Emma up and then set myself up in front of her as a target at 10, then 20, then 30 feet away. By the time the end of September rolled around, we had distance. We were ready!
We arrived in Florida a few days before the wedding and scheduled practice times at the actual ceremony walkway. Emma did a great job. We were a little concerned because of all the people and music expected at the event, but we hoped for the best.
Wedding day... We could have never predicted that there in the congregation would be a woman of similar stature and coloring and dressed in a black dress as I was. LOL! Just when you think you have planned for everything!
Well, because I was always Emma's target, and because she has cortical visual impairment and sees in shapes, she saw this woman seated three rows from the rear and, thinking it was me, "Mission Accomplished Mom!” ...she stopped.
I quickly headed up the aisle, stroked her face to let her know I was in front of her and with a little prompting, she made it down the remainder of the aisle. The wedding guests applauded her when she got there. It was beautiful, and she was beautiful.
So, Emma walked down that aisle as a flower girl — something we couldn't have imagined just a few short years ago. She would have never been able to do that without the confidence she gained while in her Pacer.
We are so grateful and thankful to be the parents of this awesome little girl. Emma’s Pacer has now moved on to help other little kiddos too. We gave it to her Early Intervention PT, to use with children who could benefit from it. It is my hope that Emma's Pacer will bring moments like we had to other families so they too can experience the joy of seeing their child walk.
To see your child walk... how awesome. Thank you Rifton, for making such a versatile tool and helping us to achieve this incredible goal and make such wonderful memories. You will always be a part of our story...
blessed to be Emma's Mom