PARENTS who began fundraising for life changing operations for Gwent toddlers with cerebral palsy are now trying to raise £40,000 for their own daughter to undergo the same procedure.
Ruby Atkins, the three-year-old daughter of Rachael and Antony Atkins, of Rogiet, was born 10 weeks prematurely on Christmas Day, 2010.
Mr Atkins, 37, and his friend Nic Matthews, 35, of Magor raised £2,500 by cycling 250 miles from Holyhead to Magor in August last year, initially in aid of the Maisie Cooper appeal and then for toddler Leo Dixon before Ruby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Mr Atkins said: “We started out raising the money for Maisie Cooper as my wife is friends with Maisie’s auntie. Maisie was born prematurely around the same time as Ruby so they were both in the neo natal ward in the Royal Gwent together.
“The bike ride was in August, by that time the Maisie appeal had already achieved its goal of £60,000. I spoke with Gareth, Maisie’s father, who said there was another child in Newport called Leo that the money could go towards. I got in touch with Kate, Leo’s mother, and a week later Ruby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Kate insisted we use the money to start our own fundraising campaign.”
All three toddlers have cerebral palsy which is a neurological condition affecting the brain and nervous system. Maisie and Leo have had an operation called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) which involves opening up the spine and cutting nerves to reduce spasticity.
The operation aims to improve function and mobility and could enable them to walk independently. It is not currently being funded by the NHS and both toddlers had to travel to America to undergo the surgery but the Atkins family hope Ruby will receive treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London which now offers the surgery.
Ruby’s parents along with family and friends have already raised £15,000 towards Ruby’s operation with a tandem sky dive and with runners in the Newport half marathon.
Mr Atkins said: “The campaigns for Leo and Maisie show there are a lot more children suffering from this with parents having to fund the operations. The hardest thing with all of this is there is not a straight path for treatment.
“It has been very helpful to learn from Kate and Mike’s experiences as they know what we are going through.”
Ruby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at two and a half-years-old and relies on aframe to help her walk.
Mr Atkins said: “This operation could change the outlook of Ruby’s life all together. To walk independently would be such a joy, it’s something you take for granted to be able to walk or play in the park.”
She is to be assessed in August and the family hope she will be able to have the operation by the end of the year.
Mr Atkins said: “Not being able to walk independently is very restrictive for her integration and playing with other children. She has one-to-one support in nursery, not for her mental ability but for her physical ability.
“This operation will be a huge help. We fund a lot of care for Ruby privately, she sees a physiotherapist every week which help stretch her muscles.”
Mrs Atkins’ colleagues at the Ministry of Justice in Newport, are holding a sponsored shave on Friday and in September Mr Atkins and three friends will be cycling from Paris to Magor. Visit justgiving.com/rubyatkins