Shannen is now trying to stand up in her wheelchair

“Our second dolphin-assisted therapy was again a complete success and Shannen has made a lot of progress. After we had been to the Curacao Dolphin Therapy and Research Center for the first time in autumn 2021, we were able to experience the dolphin-magic again with our daughter in May 2023. (Note: You can find Shannen’s first encouragement story from autumn 2021 here.)

Shannen is a triplet, born 11 weeks premature. On day 3, she had bilateral grade 3 cerebral hemorrhage. Today she is 15 years old, uses a wheelchair, is physically and mentally handicapped, cannot sit, stand, or walk. She suffers from spastic tetraparesis and epilepsy with seizures, is blind and has a shunt fitted. Already the first therapy significantly improved Shannen’s quality of life. Even today (nearly 2 years after the first dolphin assisted therapy) her seizures have gone down from 3-5 seizures a week to 1-3 seizures a month. She also continues to use her hands more purposefully, which was not the case before the first therapy.

Getting to know the therapists on the first day of therapy was great. Bibi took care of Shannen when out of the water and gave us lots of tips. In the first week Shannen was in the water with Laura and in the second week with Patrick. We already knew both therapists from our first therapy. Shannen loves it when someone sings for her. The team did a great job and even played music on the dock.

On the first day, the dolphins Bonnie, Ritina and Nubia were waiting for Shannen in the water. At first it was something new for her with the dolphins. But after a short time, Shannen thawed. She loved it when Bonnie splashed her wet and also pushed the ring away from her body for Ritina to bring it back. The next day, Shannen also got to know the dolphin lady Chabelita, and both were immediately a great team, so that Chabelita was at her side from that day on. Shannen listened to what the therapists told her – e.g., to kick her feet or to lie still in the water so the dolphin can push her.

In the second week we noticed that Shannen had significantly improved her posture. Her head was no longer hanging on her chest, and it was also clearly visible in the water. And then she suddenly tried to stand up in the wheelchair. We had never seen anything like this before. Since then, Shannen has been doing it every day. She presses her feet onto the footboard and pushes her butt up. Our goal here at home now is to use a stander and who knows maybe a walker too.

We would like to thank delfine therapieren menschen for the organization and the CDTC team for the successful therapy. We have planned our third dolphin therapy for the summer of 2025.”

Manuela Stolzenberg

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