By Marie McAden
Playtime just got a whole lot better for 4-year-old Matthew Boyles. The Ridgeland toddler — incapacitated by a heart attack two years ago — now has a tricycle he can ride.
His occupational therapist arranged for the donation of a specially equipped three-wheeler to provide him with the opportunity to play like other kids his age.
“Over the last one and a half years, he has made slow and steady progress,” said Megan Mack, supervisor of Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s HealthLink for Children. “I wanted to give him an age-appropriate activity he could do with his cousins.”
The tricycle was donated to him by the Little Red Dog Foundation, a Beaufort-based nonprofit organization that provides custom-built therapeutic cycles for people with mobility issues. The red three-wheeler features a head rest and chest brace to hold up Matthew’s limp body. His feet are secured onto the pedals with Velcro straps and his hands held to the handlebars with special gloves.
“We are so grateful for the donation,” said his mother, Mallory Recchia. “It’s made a big difference in his life. He spends 90 percent of his day lying on the couch or being held by someone. This gives him something fun to do.”
Matthew became disabled in June, 2010, after he went into cardiac arrest for almost 14 minutes, depriving his brain of oxygen. The heart attack — caused by congenital heart tumors — left him brain damaged and unable to speak or move his body.
He has been receiving physical, occupational and speech therapy for the last 20 months at HealthLink for Children, Beaufort Memorial’s pediatric rehabilitation center. Although he still cannot talk, he is trying to communicate. He has movement in his hands and is able to smile and laugh.
”He’s way more alert and recognizes people by their voices,” Recchia said. “He can say ‘mom’, which is a miracle in itself.”