DaunteDaunte Thomas, 9, is on the move, all the time. As the youngest of seven children, he keeps up with his active family despite the challenges he faces.

Born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down, this busy second-grader plays basketball for the Rolling Rams, hopes to compete in the Special Olympics, is an award-winning horseback rider, and has performed in two musicals at the Touhill Performing Arts Center in St. Louis. He doesn’t let anything get in his way and always has a smile on his face.

His mom, Sabine, credits a lot of his success to the care he has received since day one at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“My husband, John, and I found out at 19 weeks that our child had spina bifida,” she recalls. “I delivered him at 36 weeks, and he was 8 pounds, 12 ounces. He was transported straight to St. Louis Children’s Hospital and went home a week later.”

The Thomas family has been bringing Daunte to Children’s from their St. Peters, Mo., home since then for all of his medical needs, which range from regular doctor visits to numerous surgeries.

“I love St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and I recommend it to everybody,” she says. “We’ve never had a bad experience. I had no idea what to expect when we found out Daunte had spina bifida, and it was very scary, but Children’s has been wonderful. I always say Children’s is our second home.”

She says the support and care Daunte receives from the Spina Bifida Clinic at St. Louis Children’s Hospital has been crucial to her child’s success and helped her as a working mom to be there for her child.

Daunte Horseback “The clinic tries to make your appointments all in one day when possible, and that helps so that Daunte doesn’t have to miss school and I don’t have to take extra days off work,” she says. “They always make us feel welcome and like we’re family.”

She says doctors like pediatric neurosurgeon Jeffrey Leonard, MD, and pediatric urologist Paul Austin, MD, have been a big part of Daunte’s life, and her family is grateful for their care.

“The other person who has been very important to Daunte and me is Dr. Austin’s nurse, Shelly Royer,” Sabine says. “She has always been available to me. Certain situations can be scary when there are bladder and bowel issues and you never know when you might have questions.”

Daunte has faced multiple surgeries during his life and will have one for scoliosis in the next year, his mom says.

“He’s always positive, and since we’ve had such good experiences here at Children’s, he loves coming here to see everyone and visit the playroom and the rooftop garden,” Sabine says. “I even have grandchildren, and I tell my daughters, ‘Don’t bring your children anyplace else.’ Children’s Hospital has really become a home away from home.”