Belfast Telegraph

Life-changing US trip a step closer for Oliver as generous locals raise fortune to pay for youngster's op

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

Oliver Dickey's dream is to be able to walk.

And the dream is close to becoming a reality as an appeal to raise £60,000 for a life-changing US operation nears its mark.

A £15,000 donation from a Coleraine charitable trust to the 'Help Wee Oliver Walk' fund takes the total to almost £50,000 in just six weeks.

Now the parents of five-year-old Oliver are confident enough to place their little boy on the waiting list of the hospital which will carry out the procedure in the US in the summer.

The Coleraine boy will become the first child from Northern Ireland to undergo a less invasive surgical procedure of selective dorsal rhizotmy (SDR) at the American hospital which pioneered it.

"We are on the waiting list for July," confirmed his mum Charlene.

"We are absolutely ecstatic and so thankful to everyone who has donated or raised money for Oliver's fund.

"We know that the Northern Ireland people are generous, so our best hope was maybe October this year or Easter next year. Never in our wildest dreams had we hoped so much would be raised so soon".

Little Oliver was diagnosed with the spastic diplegia form of cerebral palsy when he was 18 months old, and is confined to a wheelchair.

However, the SDR procedure carried out at the St Louis Children's Hospital should enable Oliver to take his first tentative steps 12 months later.

The neurological surgical procedure aims to loosen the stiff and tight muscle tone in the child's lower limbs by removing abnormal nerve roots.

The family received a visit last Saturday from three trustees of the Coleraine cross-community charitable trust – Rev Bertie Ritchie, Fr Charlie Keaney and newspaper editor David Rankin – when the £15,000 donation was confirmed.

In a statement, the trust said it had been touched by Oliver's plight and inspired by the dignified campaign of his parents and "the vigorous response of the entire community".

Mr Rankin added: "The scale of the fundraising response from the Coleraine community has been nothing short of inspirational.

"It just goes to show you the goodness of people."

However, his parents believe that it will probably take more than the £60,000 target set on the Just Giving fundraising website to secure the follow-up treatment and equipment required to get Oliver walking, as well as funding a review trip back to the hospital in July 2015.

Although the flight tickets have not yet been bought, Charlene and her husband Neil intend to travel to America along with their other son Max (3) and their two mothers, Florrie Dickey and Laurene Moore, for babysitting.

"The surgeon has predicted, based on his experience of other children like Oliver, that he will be able to walk independently at least in a protected environment.

"Anything over and above that will be great," said Mrs Dickey.

She added: "Oliver has never said that he wanted to get up to kick a football.

"All he wants to do is something simple like we all take for granted, like being able to pick up a toy if he drops it on the floor, or get up to go the toilet, or going to the kitchen for a drink."

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