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Horseback riding helps 7-year-old boy recover from life-threatening injury

Clinic helps 7-year-old boy after near-death experience

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — A clinic in Carmel is helping kids find joy and fun in physical and occupational therapy.

It’s called the Children’s TherAplay Foundation. One 7-year-old boy’s story created a special connection to the foundation and the Carmel Fire Department five years ago.

In 2014, Carmel Fire Department got a call that Gavin Swearingen, 2 ½ years old at the time, had fallen off of a swing and hit his head.

“It was dinner, it was the type of day that we end with all the time. They went outside to play. We were all together and we don’t know what happened,” his mother, Amanda Swearingen, said.

Before Carmel firefighters arrived and rushed him to IU Health Riley Hospital for Children, his family says Gavin suddenly started to have a seizure.

“He stopped breathing,” she said.

Amanda says a neurosurgeon called Gavin’s survival and recovery “is what a miracle looks like.”

“It doesn’t feel real a lot of days,” his mother Amanda Swearingen said.

Gavin had survived the accident but still had a long road to recovery ahead of him after suffering severe brain damage and 11 surgeries.

That’s when his family decided to put him in Children’s TherAplay and their hippotherapy, a treatment strategy incorporating the movement of horses. It’s been proven to help provide carefully graded motor, sensory and neurological input.

At one point, doctors believed Gavin wouldn’t be able to walk or talk, but as you can see this Facebook Live, he’s now very active.

“Gavin was just given such a low chance, at the beginning, of even surviving and to see him here and happy and running, I mean he’s thriving and we couldn’t be here without TherAplay,” she said.

Tim Griffin, public information officer for Carmel Fire Department, said seeing Gavin’s story come full circle is rewarding. The boy’s recovery is a reminder of why they do what they do.

“The guys who were on that run did a phenomenal job, and for us, five years later, to kind of get circled back here with TherAplay, we got to tell his story for their fundraiser,” Griffin said.

For more on Children’s TherAplay and the work they do with Gavin and kids like him, click here.