Thursday, 2 January 2014

Help Wee Oliver Walk

This blog is no stranger to wee people, but I've got a particularly special little person to tell you about tonight.

Meet Wee Oliver Dickey, he's five years old and, like me, he's fortunate enough to hail from Coleraine.

But the wee man has a wee problem.  Let me hand you over to his adoring mum Charlene, who tells Oliver's story much better than I ever could:

"Oliver was born 6 weeks premature on 16 August 2008, weighing 5lb 6oz. He spent two weeks in the neo-natal unit in Antrim Area Hospital before the doctors decided that he was healthy enough and ready to come home with us to Coleraine. We were over the moon.

"The months flew in and our beautiful little baby grew bigger every day! He developed his own wee personality, had us wrapped around his wee finger!

"But as Oliver approached his 1st birthday we knew something wasn't right.  He wasn't reaching the same milestones as other babies his age! He couldn't balance well, he couldn't sit or crawl.

"We contacted our doctor who arranged for Oliver to start some physiotherapy sessions. But we still couldn't see any improvement, so we had him referred to a peadetrician. After meeting with Oliver she arranged for him to have an MRI scan to see if they could find out what was wrong.

"On 9th April 2010 we got a phone call to go to the hospital.

"The MRI result showed that our beautiful wee baby had cerebral palsy. We were devastated!!

"The doctor told us that Oliver had a type of cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia, which means that his legs are very tight and he can be in a lot of pain at times.

"She told us that this meant that he might not be able not walk, but this was something that couldn't be confirmed until he got older.  It was basically a waiting game!! All we could do was start more physio and give Oliver as much help as we could to get him stronger and hope and pray for the best!

"I was 4 months pregnant with our second son, Max, who came along on 20 September that year.  As time passed Oliver did begin to improve. He started crawling properly and began to pull up on furniture around the house.

"But as Max got older, it became more obvious to us just how bad Oliver's cerebral palsy was. Max began walking at 10 months. Oliver just sat and watched. One day he said to us 'look, Max is walking.'

"We were broken!! We pushed harder with more physio and hydrotherapy. We bought equipment for the house to help us with his daily physio routine.

"He became more determined once Max started walking and began trying to use a Kaye walker. When he started nursery he went in every day in his wheelchair but tried at least once every day to walk a wee bit in his frame across the classroom. But he knew he was different. He would say that the boys and girls could run but he can't!

"Oliver started primary school in September 2013, and I have never seen him so happy. He just loves it. The kids in his class are brilliant with him, they push him around in his chair, they draw him pictures to take home, they never leave him out!

"But once again, Oliver knows he's different. He came home one day and said 'Mummy, the boys and girls can jump in the puddles but I can't.'

"We knew we had to do something.  We looked into a surgery called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR). The surgery in simple terms cuts the dead nerve endings away from the spine and allows the ones that do work to perform properly!

"We got all of Oliver's medical information together and applied to St. Louis Children's Hospital in America.

"Just before Christmas, we got the email from Dr Park to say that he thinks Oliver is an excellent candidate for the surgery. He expects that after surgery Oliver will walk independently at least in a protected environment.

"This was huge news!!! The thought that one day he could do something simple like walk to the toilet. Or pick up a toy that he's dropped on the floor!

"So now we need your help!! We need to raise at least £60,000 to pay for Oliver to get to America for his SDR surgery, 12 months of intensive physiotherapy and any equipment he'll need after it! This will be life changing for Oliver. And for us as a family!

"Please help us if you can, no matter how small a donation. It all adds up! Please Help Wee Oliver Walk!!!

"Should we exceed the target amount (or if we do not raise enough funds, or if they cannot be used for any other reason) the funds raised will go to the general funds of Tree of Hope to assist other sick children."

Last night the Help Wee Oliver Walk campaign kicked off with the launch of his JustGiving page, which you can access by clicking onto THIS LINK.

This is being backed up on Twitter via @HelpWeeOliver and the hashtag #helpweeoliverwalk

Overnight, Britain's two greatest ever Paralympians, David Weir and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, generously the efforts with retweets.  And the greatest living Irishman (in my view), Barry McGuigan, followed suit.  As I write, Olympic medal-winning gymnast Beth Tweddle has just joined the chorus of Twitter noise and I expect many other high-profile individuals to do the same before this is done.

And done it must be.

Lots of people have to face very difficult situations in this world with no hope of ever finding a solution.  But one does exist for Oliver and I'm sure everyone would agree that the wee man has to be given the opportunity to benefit from it.

I know the whole family circle would be incredibly grateful if you could back the campaign by throwing some pennies in the pot.  But, given the amount of cash that is required, we also need to spread the word as far and wide as we can.  Your help with this would be equally welcome.

It looks like £1,000 may be raised in the first 24 hours.  Another 59 days like this will do the job.

I say again, let's get it done.