“Are you crazy? I’m not putting my son in that! It seemed so bizarre,” said once-Otterroo skeptic, Eric Weingrad. His wife, Angela, had sent him a video of a baby using an Otteroo. She bought it anyway.
Angela thought it would be a fun way to get their son Holton into the pool. Holton was born healthy but at 11 weeks old he suffered a traumatic brain injury while under his nanny’s care. The global brain damage caused by the incident has prevented the now 20-month-old from crawling or sitting, he eats with a feeding tube, and he may never walk or talk.
Eric talked to us about what ended his skepticism of the Otteroo, and why he now gives the floaties out to other families in need.
What was Holton’s first experience like in the Otteroo?
We went in the water and I couldn’t stop laughing. He was in it, totally fine, he was really comfortable. He had been crying. His temperament was really horrible at that point, but when we put him in this, he just relaxed. All of the sudden he was just floating, enjoying life. It was really wonderful.
You’ve said the Otteroo brings the whole family together. Why is that?
It allows my daughter to recognize him more as, this is going to sound horrible, but as a real human than the rest of the time. Because the rest of the time, he’s just sitting in a chair, or in our arms, he doesn’t move very much. She doesn’t interact with him. But, in the pool, it’s ‘me and my brother are swimming,’ which is really sweet, and probably a nice psychological benefit, unintended, but good. For us, we relish the moments where we get to feel like a normal family, and the Otteroo gives us that.
Initially, you saw the Otteroo as a toy. But the more you used it, you realized you could use the Otteroo in your son’s rehabilitation?
Every day, he’s in therapy. Every day, we’re working with him. Every day, we’re trying to push him a little further. For us, we’re constantly trying to find new things we can do at home that are going to help him recover. Because rehabilitation has to go beyond the allotted time insurance permits. It has to be 24 hours a day with my son to give him a shot.
Your son’s injuries made you aware of how difficult it is for families to get the resources they need, so you’ve created Holton’s Heroes, a non-profit charity which provides therapy tools for children who suffer from post-birth traumatic brain injury. How has the organization helped families?
We’ve built a custom-made ramp for a kid in Washington. We’ve bought kids walkers and special chairs, but I said to Tiffany (the founder of Otteroo), I’d also like to give them an Otteroo. Tiffany is going to send us ten of them. So, we’ll offer any family who wants one, an Otteroo. We think it is a benefit because it gives them the freedom to do something they thought they couldn’t do, which is go into a pool.