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A Smile I Will Never Forget

A small horse responsible for a big smile.
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a teenaged male heart transplant patient in a wheelchair pets a black miniature therapy horse wearing a red halter

Loyola Medical Center patient Christopher spends some quality time with Turnabout, a miniature therapy horse from Soul Harbour Animal Therapy Program. 

"I am a volunteer with Soul Harbour Animal Therapy Program. Our mission is to enrich lives by promoting the unconditional love and healing of the human-animal bond while advocating for animal therapy standards of excellence. 

We were at the Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, IL and I was assisting handler Megan with Turnabout, one of our Pet Partners-registered therapy horses. Megan was handling Turnabout and I was able to see teenaged patient Christopher turn the corner and see Turnabout for the first time. My heart is still filled with the smile and excitement I saw on Christopher's face. He was a long-term patient who eventually had to wait for over 100 days for a heart transplant. Even though he was connected to machines that were keeping him alive, he was determined to visit the miniature horses he heard about. I have been on countless visits either handling or assisting and never have witnessed a stronger connection than what I saw that day. 

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For us, "Soul" stands for Sharing of Unconditional Love. That day, stronger than any other day, everyone witnessed and felt that unconditional bond between Christopher and Turnabout. For me, they were destined to meet that day—Turnabout with his bright red halter and Christopher wearing his red shirt. They both just stood their space as Christopher gently caressed Turnabout's forehead. I still remember the overwhelming pure joy and innocence that filled the room. I'm happy to report that we have kept in touch with Christopher and he received his heart and went home." —Annamarie A. 

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