Getting diagnosed with a disease at such a young age is truly devastating, more so when it’s a rare disease. Permanent cures for most of those illnesses are not yet available, which means the child’s youth will be spent mostly on getting treatments. One of the most severe medical conditions a young person can acquire is juvenile Huntington’s disease. As the illness progresses, nerve cells malfunction, which results in loss of physical abilities. The condition can be inherited, and data from Cleveland Clinic reports that only five in a million kids in America are affected by it.
Symptoms of Huntington’s disease typically appear around ages 30 to 40, while those with juvenile Huntington’s disease experienced changes below 20 years old. Drastic effects on bodily functions are heavily apparent, which you can see in Olivia Eiger. She’s a 16-year-old girl diagnosed with the rare condition a few months before her father died of Huntington’s disease. The teenager from Charlotte, North Carolina, has already experienced speech and motor skill failure. Since treatments are unavailable, Olivia is aided by medications and various therapeutic activities.
“She has dystonia, which is the tightness of the muscles, and it limits her ability to use her hands. Her fingers have curled, and her head is turned, so she needs help with opening things. She can’t write anymore with a pen or pencil. She sometimes struggles with texting, the using of her computer, and using all those fine motor skills that we’re used to being able to do,” Erika Eiger, Olivia’s mother, explained. It’s saddening that she’s being robbed of her youth and spends her time in therapy. Nevertheless, Olivia still found comfort and happiness in one of the therapies her mother signed her up for. Like what their establishment’s name stands for, the mother and daughter found sanctuary in Shining Hope Farms.
Erika Eiger discovered the farm, which wonderfully offers horse therapy called hippotherapy. The process is indeed the perfect healing activity for a young girl like Olivia, as she interacts with friendly horses. Her favorite buddy is Fritz, and once a week, she gets to ride the horse to work on her core muscles, hand-eye coordination, and speech. Being accompanied by horses has relieved Olivia of the tough times that came along with her disease. Erika witnessed the positive impact of hippotherapy on her daughter. She still gets to be that sixteen-year-old girl who deserves to have fun and live without worries.
“It’s important to her to make that connection and to be there with her physical therapist and the different horses. It’s been the best thing in the world for her,” Olivia’s mom said. Shining Hope Farms is indeed a blessing for families who need a safe space for their children. Olivia and Erika wish to give back more to the establishment by spreading awareness about what they could offer. The nonprofit organization has been helping adults and children with disabilities since 2002.
Their horses and equine-assisted activities have provided relief for those with cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, developmental disabilities, brain injuries, hypotonia, and more. Aside from therapeutic riding, they have therapy services for physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and mental health counseling. Moreover, the place also provides veterans services that focus on their wellness. Learn more about Shining Hope Farms by visiting their website.