Paralyzed Bunny Helps Children Overcome Their Own Disabilities
At the ALYN Hospital in Jerusalem, a therapist uses Alyna, a paralyzed bunny, to show disabled children the benefit of using a brace. (Photo Courtesy of ALYN Hospital)
From congenital deformities to head traumas and injuries, 11,000 children a year are treated at ALYN Hospital, which means Alyna, born paralyzed, was in good hands when she arrived at the Jerusalem children's medical center.
But as it turns out, the 8-month-old seems to have shifted from "patient" to inspiration.
"There is no one who doesn't love Alyna — kids, parents, therapists," said Cathy Lanyard, executive director of the American Friends of ALYN Hospital.
The reason? Alyna is a bunny rabbit.
"When I was first told of the little bunny rabbit, I really thought that this was ridiculous," Lanyard, who is based in New York, told Zootoo Pet News of her annual trip to the hospital. "They are telling me all about this bunny rabbit and I thought, 'My God, this is stupid. We are wasting time to make this contraption for a rabbit when the children need us.' "
Alyna was born with her two hind legs paralyzed, and she was brought to the hospital in November 2009 by her former owner, who is also an ALYN therapist. While she now lives in the hospital's pet therapy area, Alyna — named after the hospital — actually aids in improving the rehab process of children, especially those who need a device to assist their mobility.
"Initially it is a little bit of a hard sell," Lanyard said of the challenge medical professionals have in getting their young patients to wear a brace. "It is uncomfortable, it is ugly — and they can't see ahead to how it will help their mobility."
Then along comes Alyna.
"It's the idea of the brace, because the rabbit is not in the same kind of brace that the children wear, but it replicates what they have — and for them, seeing the difference in how the little rabbit can move because of the brace can bring it all home for them," said Lanyard. "Without the brace she can barely move forward, and then with the brace, she can go anywhere — so it encourages them and makes it socially acceptable for them."
Although the hospital hasn't kept an actual log of the patients Alyna has helped, Lanyard estimates that "hundreds" of children have benefited from Alyna's example of thriving, where "it's been a smiles-all-around kind of thing."
"For these kids, anything that brings a smile to their face is a gift. Anything that gets them a little more mobility than the day before is a gift," Lanyard said.
Thanks to the hospital giving Alyna full mobility, Alyna is expected to have the normal life expectancy of a domestic rabbit. But Lanyard says, Alyna is just a small example of why ALYN does what it does.
"People tend to look at life — life or death — as very black or white, and you lose the nuances of the quality of life. At ALYN, something very extraordinary happens, in terms of the appreciation of that," Lanyard said. "We just want to help every child reach the highest level of mobility as possible and some can reach it, but others due to their condition are going to be wheelchair bound.
"But we still want them to experience as much of life as possible — and sometimes just a little bunny rabbit can do the trick."
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