Lydia Boyer, 7, quickly stole the heart of ATI physical therapist Sam Kruse when she began working with the local cancer warrior at the Waterloo facility.
“She likes to giggle and laugh and kind of gets the whole staff bellyaching,” Kruse said of Lydia. “She’s just so much fun. She brightens up the day.”
When she learned of the opportunity to nominate a patient to receive assistance from the ATI Foundation — a non-profit run by ATI Physical Therapy that helps children with physical impairments — Kruse didn’t hesitate to choose Lydia.
“I’m from Waterloo and I’ve seen a lot about her in the community on Facebook and in the paper. They’re such a great family and everyone needs help,” Kruse explained.
The foundation awarded the Boyers $3,500 on Thursday at ATI’s Waterloo location to pay for ankle foot orthotics, horseback riding therapy and an adaptive bike for Lydia. ATI Foundation executive director Terry Williams shared that these items do not include a co-pay.
“We are very honored to present something that will make a daily impact on Lydia and her family,” Williams expressed.
Lydia’s father, Josh, said he was humbled when he discovered the foundation planned to award his family the money.
“It’s humbling to see so many people responding the way they have to our sweet little girl. She’s amazing,” he told the Republic-Times. “Everyone she runs into feels that way.”
“It’s crazy. We’re just humbled by it,” Lydia’s mother, Kayla, added.
Kayla described the adaptive bicycle as a therapy bike with straps on the pedals. Other features include a back to the seat, a push bar for others to help operate the bike and more.
Josh said Lydia has been fitted for the bike and it will be delivered soon. Next is the orthotics, followed by the horseback therapy to strengthen Lydia’s core and help with walking.
A walker is last on the list.
Lydia’s physical therapy with Kruse involves supine exercises, getting her arms moving and strengthening her legs. She also works with her on the parallel bars to get her walking.
“We need to get her more moving on her own. I’d like to see her crawling, but that’s a bit tougher,” Kruse indicated.
Thus far, the physical therapy has brought some strength back to Lydia’s left side and allowed her to stand on her own for a limited time.
“We don’t know if she’s ever going to be able to walk again. It’s impossible to tell at this point,” Josh added.
Kruse, who sees Lydia three times a week, said Lydia also uses the therapy pool with adjustable water levels once a week inside the new ATI location at 11 South in Columbia.
The Boyer family also recently brought a new pet into the family — a Cane Corso puppy — to potentially serve as a seizure alert dog. The dog, named Jack Frost, will also help with toy retrieval and provide comfort to Lydia.
He will not be a strict service dog, Josh said, explaining that would mean only Lydia can handle him.
Josh also learned from the trainer that only 10 percent of dogs have the innate ability to sense when someone is about to have a seizure. This is not a skill that can be taught.
“We’re kind of just waiting to find out if he has the gift,” Josh said.
While he is being trained on other skills by Waterloo High School graduate Jessica Lloyd and trainer Kelly Davis, Jack Frost will only be with the family on occasion. Josh said he will become their pet when he turns one year old.
“We get to visit with Jack and have more and more time with him. It’s great because we get to have the dog without all the negative stuff,” he said of the training aspect.
Other news includes the discovery that Lydia’s cerebrospinal fluid showed no cancer cells during a recent doctor visit. In a few months, Lydia will get an MRI to find out if a growth on her spine is cancerous.
“She may be cancer free. That would be a miracle,” Josh said.