THE local community is rallying behind three-year-old Odhran Gallagher by raising funds to purchase a specialist walker so he can learn to walk.
Born with a congenital heart defect, Odhran has defied the odds by surviving brain trauma and operations which have left him with disabilities.
But this bright little boy, who is full of smiles, is determined to get to his feet.
And since starting Fleming Fulton School in Belfast earlier this year, he has been helped with physiotherapy and a specialist framed and harnessed walker.
Mum Charlene Edwards said Odhran had the special walker home on loan at Easter and he flourished. “He’s been wanting to get on his feet more and more,” said Charlene.
“They tried him with all sorts of wee zimmer frame-type walkers and those are the type that the NHS will fund and I have ordered him one. But he can’t keep himself up on it and keeps falling back. There is no forward tilt on the NHS one and he needs to be kept forward. He will eventually be able to use it when his balance gets better.
“This one that I borrowed from the school over Easter, he was never out of it. He was racing up and down the street, playing with his friends. He just loved the freedom of getting about on his own, having his own wee independence,” said Charlene, who has set up a special fundraiser to help get the equipment.
“I want him to have more independence. That’s my aim,” she told the Mail. “If it gets him on his feet, great. You can see he wants to get up and walk. It would be great know that he will be able to get out and play with other kids. He’s never had that as he has always been carried or crawling.
“Because he was used to being on his feet before the brain injury, he knows he can do it,” said Charlene.
Odhran was born in August 2009 and one hour later his mum was told her newborn was very ill. After being taken to the Paediatric ICU in the Royal Victoria Hospital, he was given hours to live but he survived and Charlene was delighted to take him home 11 days later.
At 12 weeks Odhran had tests which made him very sick and he ended back in the PICU. Charlene was told again that her little baby was unlikely to survive the weekend.
However that Monday, the doctors were so impressed with Odhran’s fighting spirit, they decided give him open heart surgery which was a great success.
From ICU he went to the Clark Clinic and spent three weeks in recovery. And despite constant hospital check ups and uncertainty, Odhran lived his life to the full.
However last January, 2012, Odhran was flown to Birmingham for life-saving open heart surgery. Due to medical complications, Odhran suffered a brain trauma and was given a ‘grim outlook’. He was discharged last May and with intensive physio and occupational therapy, and lots of support, he has yet again thrived.
“He was only walking about four or five months at that time and then to wake up and suddenly he couldn’t walk or talk,” she said.
“He’s just kept fighting and fighting. He just wants to be a wee boy and do wee boy things,” said Charlene as a mischievous Odhran pulls himself about the living room, getting into everything.
Odhran has special callipers for his shoes to give him more stability while he learns to walk. “His shoes won’t go on without them as his feet are so badly affected,” said mum.
“They point down the ways all the time. He’s very active. He never quits,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Belfast Health Trust said: “In agreement with the family, Belfast Trust made provision for a suitable walker to meet the developing physical needs of this child. Short and longer term equipment needs form part of any clinical review and provision of any alternative or additional equipment will be made as agreed with all relevant parties.”
There will be a fund-raising night in JP’s in Lurgan on June 1, with a DJ, buffet and raffle.
Already dozens of businesses in the Lurgan area and beyond have been donating prizes for the raffle.
There is no cover charge but a bucket at the door for those who wish to donate.
If you would like to give online the link is http://www.gofundme.com/2mwxw8