LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Childhood is a time to be carefree and have fun. For some medically fragile children, that simply is not possible.
Sterling Riggs found one place where kids find peace and a sense of freedom.
Eighteen-year old Montell spends most of his time in a vegetative state in a wheelchair, a breathing machine forcing air into his lungs.
He will never have a heart to heart talk with his father or hug his mother. He can't even walk or feed himself. But words can't describe the transformation that takes place when he's lowered into the 92 degree salt water therapeutic pool at the Home of the Innocents in Louisville.
For children fighting to just breathe, this is the only place in the country that provides a sense of mobile freedom; the only place they can get into a pool with a floating ventilator. Physical Therapist Mickey Baron has been working with such patients for 43 years.
"Some people think that the water is to get better and it is, but sometimes the water is to just make you feel good," said Baron.
The pool provides an opportunity for these children to feel what it's like to walk -- something many of them will never do. Nineteen-year-old Conner can't tell you how he feels, but the transition from land to water is undeniable!
"One time Conner took five independent steps and I told his mother and she said he'll never walk again and that was four years ago and he's never done it again," said Baron. And after awhile, Conner jumps up and down joyfully. In the pool, he looks just like any other kid without physical limitations.
Riggs got to meet 13-year-old Matthew. His feet usually sit still in his wheelchair. But in the pool, he morphs into a different child. He kicks and floats, all without any help. Through a series of exercises, we stretched his muscles and loosened severe tightness that keeps him from walking. Baron has been working with Matthew for three years and says her work is a labor of love.
"I take away from it that maybe their lives are better and we as therapists make it easier for the child, easier for the families and also for the caregivers that work here and love the children," Baron said.
The Jim and Kay Morrissey Advanced Therapy Center opened at the Home of the Innocents two years ago. Spend an afternoon with the kids and Riggs promises that you will walk away with humility and memories that you will never forget.
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