2YH: From heart surgery to splashing around, Aquatic Therapy is making a difference

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of Chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down Syndrome. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down Syndrome, making it the most common chromosomal condition. Over the weekend in Anchorage, The Alaska Down Syndrome Network held its walk at the Delaney Park Strip. It's to raise awareness and show support to those born with a little something extra.

3-year old Sarah Thomas during her Aquatic Therapy session.

With a big smile on her face, 3-year old Sarah Thomas loves to have fun. She's also a little spunky. Her smile can light up a room, but her journey getting here wasn't easy.

"We didn't know she had down syndrome until about 6 hours after she was born," said her mom Lisa Thomas.

A blood test confirmed her condition but an echocardiogram confirmed something else. Sarah would need open heart surgery by 6 months old. She had it done at 5.

"I met people, got involved and kind of just faced it head-on. It's a big learning curve, it's a little intimidating, but it's an amazing journey," said Thomas.

Fast forward to today, Sarah is an outgoing little girl who loves the water and bath time. What may look like a party in the pool is actually part of Sarah's therapy.

Once a week she gets to splish splash around doing 45 minutes of aquatic therapy. Something she's done since 11 months old.

"I noticed when she first started, she never used her left hand, everything was with her right hand, she'd reach way across to get stuff, she would never use her left and within 1 or two weeks of aqua therapy she started using her left hand," said her mom.

The water puts less pressure on her joints, which makes it easier for her to learn how to use them.

"When you're out of the water your muscle memory is already there to do it again," said Thomas.

In addition to physical, speech and occupational therapy, Lisa kept seeing Sarah improve.

"It was just like always a new thing every week after therapy."

For someone who loves the water so much, you can bet Sarah will be splish-splashing for years to come.

Alaska Down Syndrome Network serves families across the entire state.


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