When 6-year-old Emilio Delgadillo slips into a pool he glides around the water with a freedom of movement he rarely gets to experience.
Born with Spina Bifida, Emilio on dry land teeters and totters and has to rely on a wheelchair for movement beyond a short distance. But put him in a swimming pool and it is a completely different story.
“He can move with ease in the water,” said Emilio’s mother, Guillermina Delgadillo. “He’s like a little fish. He doesn’t have any restrictions put on him.”
“In the water he’s just like any other 6-year-old,” said Emilio’s father Francisco Delgadillo. “He gets to feel and be normal.”
The Delgadillos learned of Emilio’s condition prior to his birth, but didn’t know to what degree it would affect him. At a day old he underwent surgery to close the exposed section of his spine, which in turn led to spinal fluid collecting in his head that required a shunt to be surgically placed to allow the fluid to drain.
Spina Bifida is the most common birth defect in the United States. It occurs in the womb when the spinal column does not close all the way. It comes in various forms and can cause a multitude of problems, mainly with mobility, but also issues with the bladder, bowels, digestion, skin and cognition.
As an infant and a toddler, the condition was more manageable for the new parents, but as Emilio has grown so has his health issues. Since May, Emilio has had five surgeries and been hospitalized more than a dozen times.
“It seemed like this year he just can’t catch a break,” Guillermina Delgadillo said.
One shining spot, however, in a year of medical appointments and waiting for test results was a three week time span in which Emilio got to go for a swim every day.
“He loved it and his doctors and therapists noticed a change in him physically,” Guillermina Delgadillo said. “He had better posture, balance and a stronger core. But when the swim lessons came to an end the improvements started to disappear.”
The doctors and therapists all suggested Emilio continue swimming on a regular basis, but that posed some hurdles for the Turlock family. Because his Spina Bifida affects his lower spine, he has issues with his bladder and bowels, which means swimming in a public pool is not a viable option. The above ground pools that are far less expensive than the built-in models won’t work because of the difficulties of getting him up and over into the water.
“We know that a therapeutic pool is the best option for him. We just don’t know how to make that happen,” said Guillermina Delgadillo said.
The family was unsuccessful in obtaining a loan, which is why they turned to social media and established a Go Fund Me account.
“I was really hesitant about it because I felt like it could open us up to a lot of judgment, but I was desperate to help my son,” Guillermina said. “I want him to have any advantage he can get; anything that will help him move freely.”
The Go Fund Me account link to help pay for a therapeutic pool for Emilio is www.gofundme.com/bd789trm.