Child of the Month
By Rich Petersen
www.programaninos.org
Juan de Dios García Real

      If you’ve been following this column for a few years, you might recognize Juan de Dios García Real—known in his family as “Juanito.” We featured Juanito about 2-1/2 years ago and, given some fairly amazing progress on his part, we thought an update was in order.
      Juanito lives in Chapala with his Dad, Mom and three siblings—Claudia, Ángel and Cristián (an older sister, Angélica, is married and lives outside the home). His father, José, is a gardener and caretaker for a property on the highway located close to the Hotel Montecarlo; his Mom, Antonia, is a housewife and co-caretaker of the property.
      Juan de Dios was born with hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) which causes swelling of the cranial cavity, and his present condition is somewhat of a miracle, both to his family and to the doctors and therapists who have cared for him.
      Due to the swelling, which also caused frequent convulsions, two shunts were placed in Juan de Dios’ skull to drain the excess fluid; both are connected to his belly button. At first his little body did not accept such an invasion and the child had to undergo several surgeries to try to accommodate the shunts. Due to his immobility during this time, he also suffered lung infections from accumulated liquid. He was hospitalized on many occasions, usually with a high fever. The doctors told the family that Juanito probably wouldn’t survive, and that if he did, he would remain in a vegetative state.
      After several months Juan de Dios’ body accepted the drains and he began to improve. The family took him to physical therapy as soon as he was able to tolerate it, and he continues having therapy and continues to improve. The family was and has been unwavering in their dedication to the boy’s care, always with him in the hospital and attentive to changes (positive and negative); he is very much a part of his family.
      About a year ago we at Niños told the family about the local equine therapy program, so they began to take Juanito each week to see if he would benefit from learning about and trying to ride a horse. Well, the change has been phenomenal in that the boy’s balance, confidence, social skills and speech have all improved.  “His” horse’s name is “Choco,” and Juanito looks forward to every session with his new friend.
      Juanito is now 5 years old and recently came to the Niños Incapacitados monthly meeting with his father.  What a charmer!  He was at first a bit shy around a large group of adults, but soon relaxed and walked around the room greeting everyone and interacting. Dad told us that they are so pleased with the boy’s improvement and are confident that little Juanito will soon be able to attempt pre-school.
      You may have seen Juan de Dios perched on his father’s shoulders in Chapala—he is the one with the colorful and often unusual caps/hats that the family uses to cover and protect his head—viewing the world from atop his Dad’s shoulders. He is now able to walk and keep his balance holding onto his father’s hand. He loves a ride in a car as well. He and his Dad play at soccer, and with a bit of music he moves to the beat. At the end of the meeting, Juanito shook hands with as many of us as possible, a big smile on his face, and a “gracias” and “adios.”
      Niños Incapacitados meets the second Thursday of each month (except for July and August) at 9:45 in the bar area of La Nueva Posada.  Please join us and learn more about Juanito and other children like him whom we help.  For more information see our website: www.programaninos.org

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