By Jackson Sveen

When 3-year-old Gabe Ospina, of Charlotte, was born, his parents, Mariano, 27, and Kristin, 31, were told their son would never walk, crawl or have bowel or bladder control.

He also faced cognitive delays and possibly death.

Gabe was born with a birth defect, spina bifida, where his spine isn’t completely closed off.

He was delivered through a Caesarean section at Duke University Hospital by a pediatric neurosurgeon named Dr. Gerald Grant. Gabe had his first back closure the following day.

“We have been told that there was nothing that could be done to change the hand we had been dealt, but to just adapt to it with things like wheelchairs and catheters,” Kristin said. “We as a family have never taken “no” for an answer and don't intend to start now.”

Family stays resilient

Mariano and Kristin weren’t able hold Gabe until he was 3 weeks old. He was in the intensive-care nursery for a month after his birth.

Kristin was at the hospital 14 hours a day during that time and stayed at the nearby Ronald McDonald House for a month while Mariano finished up the last semester of his undergraduate studies.

Gabe began physical therapy when he was just 3 months old, but his parents were determined to do everything they could to give their son a better life, including traveling the globe for stem-cell treatment.

Gabe was 1 1/2 years old when he received his first stem-cell treatment in China. Treatment cost $30,000.

The Ospinas were there for a month. Gabe received eight umbilical cord-derived stem-cell packets through an IV. He also received acupuncture, fire cupping, electric stimulation, massage and physical therapy five days a week.

Kristin said that after the treatment, Gabe began to gain feeling down to his knees and was able to walk with a reciprocating gait orthosis brace and a walker.

The Ospinas took Gabe to Mexico when he was 2 1/2 years old for his second treatment. The family was there for seven hours at a cost of $16,600. He received stem cells from an umbilical cord and placenta.

Within a week, Gabe was able to pull his knees under himself while crawling, climb up the stairs and use new muscle groups, Kristin said.

He is also learning to balance on arm crutches and has gained sensation and control in his bladder and bowels.

Gabe uses a pulsed electromagnetic field therapy and electronic stimulation machine along with daily physical therapy at home.

Kristin said Gabe is already doing more than he was ever expected to do medically. Gabe loves to walk, dance and climb, which are all part of his therapy routine.

“There is no limit to our expectations of our son,” Kristin said. “He is one of the happiest people I have ever met, he is self confident and above average cognitively. As for us as parents, it has been an adventure. At times, we have been heart broken and others bursting at the seams with pride and joy and everything in between.”

Community shows support

Last year, neighbor Vic Wearney heard about a Facebook post that one of his son’s friends had made.

Jesse Joe Halyburton, an avid skateboarder, asked "If they have Bike for Life and runs for cancer, why can't we (the skate community) have an event to raise money for charity?"

Jesse wanted fellow skateboarders to help him raise money for cancer, because his grandfather had died from the disease.

Werany was talking to the Ospinas, who live in the University area, and learned about the extent to which they were going to get their son care through stem-cell therapy.

“Gabe has become a staple in our lives,” Werany said. “My daughter and son love to play with him.”

Gabe is set to have a third treatment in March in Mexico, and Werany thought the fundraiser that his son’s friend had suggested on Facebook would be a good opportunity to help a family close to home.

“I felt that helping (Gabe) and his family would have a greater impact on the young skaters who we are trying to make an impression on about community service and looking out for other folks,” Werany said.

Jesse and his skateboarder friends have banded together to hold the Shred for Gabe fundraising event 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Revert Skate Park in Rock Hill, S.C.

Gabe is going to be at the event where the kids will get to meet him and see directly who their hard work is going to benefit.

Gabe’s third treatment will cost $16,000. The skateboarders hope to raise $2,000-$3,000 during the Shred for Gabe event.

INFOBOX: Want to learn more?

Several local businesses have donated to the event: Skate Twerp (Werany’s skateboarding company and team), Summer of Bros The PLAYground, Robbie Martin Photography, Tork Trux, WORD apparel, TMDK skate gear, Dirtball clothing, Harris Teeter, Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, Carpe Diem, Power Balance, SPEED energy drink, Razzoo’s Cajun Café, Soul Ride skate Park, Get a Grip Skate Park, Hot Spot Skate Park, Sinister Skate shop, rHip clHip, Doodle Graphics, Michael Waltrip Racing, Revert Skate Park, E2, Smokey Bones, Three’s Taproom and Monster Energy.

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