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Light filters through the side window of St. Andrew’s Children's Clinic as 6-year-old Joaquin Ortega grips his mother’s arms and hobbles to the examination table.

Ortega’s smile radiates while he waits to be seen by Edgar Rodriguez, an orthotist who specializes in designing artificial limbs and orthopedic devices for patients with body deformities and disorders.

Without the brace Ortega would not be able to learn how to walk.

Ortega was born with spina bifida, and has loss of feeling below his waist.  In hopes of a miracle, Ortega and his mother Maria Luisa Salido have been traveling from their home in CaborcaMexico to the clinic since he was 4 months old.

“We are so grateful for all the services the clinic gives us,” said Salido in Spanish. “He feels good and he is beginning to take his first steps.”

Rodriguez gives Ortega a high five and asks him to lie down and relax. Rodriguez with the help of his mother lifts Ortega’s legs and places the brace underneath his hips and legs.

The brace is held together with two metal rods and the inner casting is blue with an assortment of colorful race flags.

Rodriguez first straps the feet, then the legs and lastly the hips. Once Ortega is securely strapped in, Rodriguez helps him sit up. Ortega pulls down his Spider-Man shirt and his face exuberates excitement.

Rodriguez slides Ortega’s feet sideways and helps him sit up. Slowly Rodriguez lowers Ortega’s feet onto the brown clay floor. With Rodriguez’s hands around Ortega’s arms they take the first step.

Ortega wobbles slightly but is eager to move forward. Salido claps and Rodriguez affirms Ortega’s progress in Spanish.

Today is one day closer to Ortega’s dream of kicking a soccer ball on his own. 

Written by Christina Licata

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