In the almost two years since Kevin Babington’s near deadly fall aboard Shorapur at the Hampton Classic Horse Show in Long Island, NY, the Babington family has completely re-tooled their daily life in the recovering Olympian's fight to walk again. And Kevin's recovery is showing exciting and unexpected progress.
The family is taking this new journey day by day, showing an inspiring amount of adaptability and hope for the future. They've changed their business model to better support a full-time physical therapy program for Kevin, and Dianna balances her multiple roles as mother, coach, business owner, and entrepreneur. The girls – Marielle and Gwyneth – still participate in riding programs, supporting their father and his legacy at every turn, trot and jump. And yes, added together, it’s a lot, but the Babington family is absolutely intent on going the distance and fighting for Kevin’s best-case scenario -- whatever that may be.
Two years ago, Kevin’s original diagnosis (paralysis from the shoulders down) left his wife and business partner, Dianna, feeling truly helpless. Fast forward to today, Kevin’s stem cell replacement treatments from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, paired with his physical therapy, are finally beginning to show results. Kevin is beginning to show some movement throughout his body and he’s now breathing on his own.
Accepted as a “Cell Top” Mayo Clinic trial candidate, Kevin's response to treatment is intently studied. From blood tests of every type and daily consultations to 1,000,000,000 stem cells collected from his fat and injected into his spinal fluid through a lumbar puncture, researchers are evaluating Kevin with a "fine-tooth comb approach" according to Dianna. As Kevin improves, treatments are tweaked accordingly as determined by his sensations and body movements.
Day to Day
Kevin’s physical therapy is part of his daily routine, made possible by the company Neuro Fit 360. At the Babington's home, renovations are currently underway to help maintain a semblance of normalcy for all. “I felt like we were living in a rat cage and in dire need of expansion,” says Dianna. Renovations include a vibration plate, magna wave, standing frame, physical therapy table, massage machine, and stim bike.
"I always felt like our family was close. Our family has never been more united."
“The discipline is constant. Kevin holds his cards close to his chest. He’s business as usual, always in good spirits," says Dianna. "The only way to get through this… is to get through each day, one at a time. We get up, we all do the best that we can. We don’t think in terms of goals, we think in terms of, 'What is today bringing?'”
Currently, Dianna has begun to do her own personal training out of North Bridge Farm in Concord, Mass., as well as traveling to Wellington to maintain the riding and coaching at home. She continues to manage, support and schedule Kevin’s therapy lifestyle. “I always felt like our family was close. Our family has never been more united. Gwyneth supports my new business, with Dianna as the head trainer and helps to lead the junior rider team, Marielle rides the young horses back in Wellington while Kevin trains back at home. We continue to run the business, and Kevin enjoys the access to teaching – he is an amazing resource. We have truly reinvented our business model,” she says.
Samantha in the Making
Fans, family and researchers continue to gather, cheer, and fundraise in hopes of recovery for the hero that Kevin has always been to the equestrian community. Recently, family friend Nancy Powers offered a connection to a free service dog from Canine Support Teams Inc. and trained by Lindsay Brock.
Samantha, an Australian shepherd – a breed the Babington family is especially fond of -- is currently in the puppy training process to assist Kevin in his recovery process. Samantha’s tasks will include performing certain “errands” to help with privacy, opening and closing doors, retrieving objects, and helping with the aids.
“When I finally got to meet her, she was more beautiful in person than her photos," says Kevin. "I am really excited to be around her. I am truly looking forward to the companionship."
Isolation and... More Isolation
Ironically, once COVID began, the shutdown brought feelings of relatability to the Babington family. Everyone was now isolating together. The financial downfall began when the fundraising stopped. Group gatherings were no longer safe and the money to support Kevin’s lifestyle became scarce. “I don’t know how I would be able to make any living without the help,” Dianna says. “I am aware Kevin is my responsibility. It is not the industry’s responsibility to take care of Kevin Babington, but the fundraising has helped keep Kevin in physical therapy and support the aids in the house. COVID made a very bad situation worse. The foundation is what keeps us going.”
Every horse, jump, and lesson at Babington Inc., since the accident has been designed to keep the business moving forward. Dianna continues to rise and fall with the weight of the world on her shoulders. “I don’t know how I have made it this far. Some days and I cannot express enough how grateful I am for the support that we receive every single day,” she says. With the world beginning to slowly open back up, fundraisers are starting to offer more for Kevin and his recovery. Duncraven Stables, located in Titusville, NJ will offer a benefit this Fall in honor of Kevin, featuring a horse show and clinics from local professionals. All proceeds will be donated to the Babington Foundation.
Paralysis is one of the most terrifying diagnoses a human can hear, especially as an Olympic athlete. This powerful family of four entrenched their lives in healing through multiple avenues. Through it all, Dianna continues to maintain a sense of humor. “I never give up. If they ask us to try a new medicinal tree bark from Mongolia, you know we are on that next flight! Mushrooms from the Himalayas? Why not!” Dianna laughs.
Kevin and Dianna both are determined to continue to keep fighting with smiles on their faces and in hopes of embracing change and setting strong examples for their girls and their legacy they continue to build.