“Good morning, Ismael,” the staff individually greet the children at Rancho de los Niños.
Twelve months ago, seven-year-old Ismael is sitting in his stroller, gazing off in the distance. Typically, he doesn’t reply, his eyes fixed on the space in front of him. Revealing little feeling or expression, Ismael cannot respond to his name or any noise around him. He sits lifeless, resisting all touch.
Born premature weighing 1.76 pounds, Ismael struggled in his early years. Medical records indicate weak muscle tone, an inability to walk, respiratory issues and no language skills. Vague diagnoses and inaccurate medication result in minimal developmental gains.
When first placed at Rancho, Ismael is not only inactive and unresponsive to those around him, his spontaneous movement is limited to a nervous habit – scratching and pulling on the back of his ear, under his arms and on his chest leaving deep wounds. Though intended to self-calm, the movements are harmful to his skin and overall health. Later termed as “bio-stimulant feedback,” the staff at Rancho de los Niños can do little more than focus on preventing Ismael from hurting himself.
As partnership with Back2Back grows and child sponsorship begins, the pursuit of long-term answers for Ismael begins.
In July 2013, Back2Back staff attempt a temporary solution, while they search for a long-term answer. Child boxing gloves are purchased and placed over Ismael’s little hands, which allow for movement but buffer his body from his hands. His wounds can now heal, as the journey for deeper, holistic care continues.
Determined, Back2Back staff begin combing the internet and find an innovative product from the United Kingdom. This specialized sleeve connects to the shoulder and protects Ismael from scratching and pulling his skin, while also giving him the range of motion to pick up objects and become an independent eater. This soft, silky sleeve fits like a sweater, snugly over his hands, providing a barrier for his skin in a more natural, less obtrusive way.
In August 2013, through Child Sponsorship funds, Back2Back locates a pediatric neurologist at a Children’s Hospital in another city for a second opinion. After only 4-5 appointments, Ismael is on his way to a better life. Correct medication starts and is adjusted several times over the following months. This individualized treatment is already resulting in remarkable change. Becoming more alert, Ismael looks at others and communicates his preferences and needs.
Today, Ismael’s physical wounds have healed. He can be trusted to play independently for a few minutes at a time. With consistent and accurate treatment, Ismael has greater educational opportunities than he did before. Now that his harmful scratching has stopped, Ismael can be enrolled in a school for children with special needs. Since March 2014, Ismael has attended school where he receives physical therapy and can be seen learning and playing with peers.
Next up: pursuing speech therapy.
With effective medical treatment and individualized attention, Ismael is flourishing. Staff can now focus on setting goals for improving cause and effect, language, and motor skills. He is learning to respond without tears when encouraged to walk, and will now walk alongside anyone willing to hold his hand. Ismael looks forward to the arrival of mission teams. He initiates contact and loves to be held. This human touch and affection has been key to Ismael’s developmental gains. If you visit Rancho, you will likely see Ismael standing at your feet, arms lifted up. He is inviting you to engage with him in his now bigger world.
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