Teen born with spina bifida stands, dances during birthday celebration

Yanira Guzman stands on feet for first time while celebrating quinceañera

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Quan Nguyen, News4Jax intern

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. - A lifelong dream of a young girl who is now a teenager has come true.

Yanira Guzman has dreamed of the day when she could stand on her own two feet. On Saturday, during her 15th birthday, she did.

Every young girl dreams of a special birthday. For Guzman, celebrating her quinceañera, a 15th birthday celebration of adulthood in Latino culture, is more than just a party. It's the first time she stood on her own two feet.

"I was in shock. But yeah, my dream come true was standing up," Guzman said.

She was born with spina bifida, a condition that affects her spine. It has made the special task of walking nearly impossible.

A specialized chair allows Guzman to stand, dance and even twirl.

"But we know deep inside because she always told us: 'Why me? Why can't I be like other kids?' This chair brought her, like, wow. It changed her world," said her mother, Jeannie Del Valle.

Not only will she stand, Guzman will dance with her father.

"One thing that we teach her is, you know, the sky is the limit," said her father, Pedro Guzman. "She has her condition, but nothing is possible."

Guzman began physical therapy at Wolfson Children's Rehabilitation more than two years ago.

"For physical therapy we worked on range of motion, increasing the strength in her legs, with the end goal of being able to dance with her dad," said Madelyn Jones, physical therapist with Wolfson Children's Rehabilitation. "Whatever that child needs, we will do that."

Wolfson said it focuses a lot on mobility, no matter the person's level.

"We focus on her next level and how can we make her more independent so she can participate at home, school and her community so she can be part of that," said Lisa Towery, Wolfson pediatric occupational therapist. "We're both very passionate, regardless of a child or individual's ability level, we all should be able to participate. For some that means using some adaptations but that's okay."

Yanira Guzman agrees spina bifida will not stop her from enjoying life.

"I'm planning in the future to do my own fashion line, like, fashion clothes," Yanira Guzman said. "That was my other dreams to do here. I got some, like, ideas for wheelchair people and, like, disabled people or anything that will help."

Her message to others?

"Just keep trying and never give up and just reach for the stars," Yanira Guzman said.

Yanira Guzman is ready to return to school and also shared that she got picked to become a model at a December fashion show organized by Wolfson Children's Hospital.

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