He always has a smile on his face despite having overcome the most difficult health issues and now little Odhran Gallagher is starting to walk again.
The five-year-old Lurgan boy has been through several open heart surgeries and even suffered brain injury but despite all the odds, Odhran is overcoming all adversities.
His mum Charlene Edwards can’t believe how well he has come on in the last three years despite being close to death.
Odhran was born on August 1, 2009 with a congenital heart condition - pulmonary atresia with VSD and MAPCAs. He wasn’t expected to live but battled back bravely only to be hit with a further setback in 2012 when his heart stopped during surgery in Birmingham.
Charlene explained: “He had his first surgery in Belfast when he was born. We were hoping to have all his surgeries done there as they did such a good job with the first one.
“When he took ill again we signed a consent form to have surgery done in Belfast and we were put on a waiting list. His condition started to deteriorate and because of the waiting list and logistical reasons we were told he would have to go to Birmingham for surgery.
“He had to have a full repair to his heart. He ended up having three open heart surgeries. He was only meant to have one, but ending up having three because of complications.”
Charlene added: “During one of the surgeries his heart completely stopped. Somehow they got his heart beating again.”
She explained there had been difficulties with the Ecmo machine which is similar to a bypass machine and Odhran suffered a lack of oxygen to his brain causing damage.
“He was on it for eleven days and one of the three times he came off it during that time there must have been a lack of oxygen going to his brain, but we knew that would be a risk. He wouldn’t have lived without. He needed that machine or he would have died.
“When they took him off the ventilator they realised that he had suffered some sort of brain damage. He wasn’t able to do anything for himself. He was like a wee baby.”
Odhran’s last spell in hospital was from January 2012 till that May and it was really touch and go at the time.
Indeed doctors had offered bleak news about his future development after he suffered the brain injury.
However, with family support and lots of tenacity, little Odhran has beaten the odds and his mum said: “I can’t believe the difference in him.
“St Patrick’s Day three years ago, he wasn’t able to do anything. Mother’s Day three years ago he smiled for the first time in 11 weeks. From then he started doing a new thing nearly every day like rolling over, reaching for things. He didn’t sit up for a long time by himself or crawl for a long time by himself. And even feeding, he was tube fed.”
He was just two and a half years old when this happened. And now at five (he will be six in August) he is a bright, spontaneous, loving, curious, chatty and friendly little boy.
Charlene remembers the first time he smiled at her on Mother’s Day 2012 she just forgot everything and just kept repeating: “Oh My God, he just smiled, he just smiled.”
Now she can’t believe the difference. “His talking has come on leaps and bounds.
A few years back, Charlene organised a fundraiser for a walker to help Odhran with his mobility. And it clearly worked as the physios at Fleming Fulton School, where he attends, believes it has done the job and is almost too supportive for him. “It is not that therapeutic for him now as he doesn’t need that much support.
“Now he is flying on. He just lifts his feet and he flies down hills with it.
“Now he is just like a normal child. He goes down to Scallywags and he is able to go down all the slides. We go to Tannaghmore Gardens and he is able to push himself in his wheelchair.
“The other day we were up the town and he walked to the chemist by himself with the walker.
“He’s really bright. He goes for my phone and knows all the apps on it. He can go into YouTube and get videos up.
“The school (Fleming Fulton in Belfast) has been fantastic. He gets speech, physio and occupational therapy twice a week whereas if he went to a school round here I would have to bring him to all those appointments.
“He has his own physio, OT and speech therapist that he knows and trusts them and they work really well with him.
“His physio is really impressed with Odhran and rang me the other day to say he was walking with tripod crutches at the school.
“It is just for therapy at the minute but she is hoping that he will be able to walk with them on his own soon enough.
“She said he is really easy to work with because he is so determined. He has that push in him. She says he is such a pleasure to work with,” said the proud mum.
And despite wearing little callipers and using a walking frame and wheelchair, Odhran loves nothing better than dancing and listening to music.
However, Charlene said there was occasionally the dark side and Odhran has suffered abuse from some nasty people with some calling him ginger and telling him to get out of his pram and get up and walk.
“There are some very cheeky people about,” said Charlene. “Somebody said to me in Tesco one day, ‘he’s a big baby, why was I lifting him?’
“Some man said to him in the doctors, ‘stop crawling about’. And ‘Hey you ginger, get up and walk, stop being so lazy’,” she revealed.
“I just said, ‘don’t be so rude, he can’t walk’ and another wee girl just replied, ‘well he can still smile’.”
His little 15 month old brother Daithi has pushed him on.
“See the amount he has come on since Daithi was born. He is jealous at Daithi being able to walk and grabs Daithi by the legs and throws him on the ground,” said Charlene, adding the great boisterous fun and rivalry of the two brothers has helped boost his abilities and he has developed leaps and bounds.
“It has really given him the push. He is determined now more than ever. He is teaching Daithi to talk. The amount of words Daithi has already is down to Odhran teaching him. They are teaching each other and bouncing off each other.”
Charlene is proud of her son for developing so well and is grateful to all her family and friends for their help but most particularly of Fleming Fulton School.