matar walking

Patient Story

Matar’s Story: A Born Fighter

Posted By Megan Washburn Give Now


Born at just 25 weeks gestation, Matar was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and hydrocephalus, a condition that leads to excess fluid on the brain. His parents were told he wouldn’t survive, a fate they couldn’t accept.

Against all odds, Matar did survive. At the age of three, he traveled with his family from their home in the United Arab Emirates to the United States in hopes of finding the medical support he needed.

“Being away from home is very difficult,” said Othman, Matar’s father. “Yet, we were committed to sacrificing anything and doing whatever it took to find a cure for our son.”

Unfortunately, Matar’s family initially was met with more heartache when they were told by U.S. doctors that he would never be able to stand, walk or talk. They sought second, and even third and fourth, opinions, and found themselves in a cycle of rejection. Clinicians agreed that nothing more could be done for Matar, a sentiment that his parents again refused to accept.


Then, one day, while at a rehabilitation clinic in Philadelphia, one of Matar’s therapists recommended that his parents contact Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. Soon thereafter, he was accepted for admission. His family again traveled hundreds of miles to AbilityLab, finding a renewed sense of hope.  

“We were very fortunate to find a great support system and a loving family here at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab,” said Othman. “We felt right at home, surrounded by family and friends.” 

Every little bit of progress is a major milestone for us. These little accomplishments — from holding on to a table and standing up, to saying a new word or using his left hand to grab a ball — mean the world to us.

Othman - Matar's Father


When Matar arrived at AbilityLab, he was only capable of dragging his body across the floor and walking on his knees. He also was nonverbal and almost never used his left hand.

Matar received intensive speech, occupational and physical therapy during his six-month stay at the hospital. Soon, progress began to take form. For instance, one day in the hospital’s therapy pool, Matar began standing and taking steps for the very first time in his life.

He hasn’t stopped yet. 

“Every little bit of progress is a major milestone for us,” said Othman. “These little accomplishments — from holding on to a table and standing up, to saying a new word or using his left hand to grab a ball — mean the world to us.”

Today, Matar is walking, talking and using his left hand as he continues to make strides in his recovery. He loves to play, look at books and listen to songs, always with a smile on his face. His family supports and cheers him on, celebrating every milestone along the way.

“He is happier, he is healthier and we are very thankful for that,” said Othman.

After six months, his discharge from AbilityLab was met with mixed emotions by his family and hospital staff.

“The AbilityLab is so different from any other rehabilitation facility we have ever seen — not only in terms of having the latest technology and the biggest building but, most importantly, because it has the greatest people,” said Othman. “The therapists there are like family. From day one, we felt that they genuinely care about their patients. They are truly amazing, and they make miracles happen every day.”

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