Belfast Telegraph

Can you help little Cavan walk? Belfast two-year-old needs £80k op in US to get onto feet

Parents hoping to raise £80k for US op which will help disabled son onto feet

By Claire Williamson

All little Cavan wants to do is be able to walk - can you help him?

Cavan O'Neill from Belfast, like most two-year-olds, loves Peppa Pig, dinosaurs and is fascinated by cars.

The determined little boy is also a huge Taylor Swift fan who requests to hear her songs every day.

But he needs your help - as on his first birthday Cavan's parents noticed he was struggling to sit upright unsupported when he was blowing out his first birthday candle, he couldn't crawl and standing or walking seemed impossible.

At 18 months, an MRI scan showed that he had damage on his brain known as Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) which is in keeping with cerebral palsy.

He suffers from a specific kind called spastic diplegia that affects his legs, making it difficult for him to walk. 

Cavan's mum and dad, Emma (36) and Diarmuid (34), were devastated.

Emma said: "It's devastating, because you have these hopes and dreams. You think all you are worrying about is that you want a certain school for him, you want him to play sports - and all of that was thrown out the window.

"When he was diagnosed they can't give you any information, they can't tell you if he's going to be intellectually impaired. You just have to take it day by day."

The family were thrust into dealing with a future of uncertainty. Cavan attends daycare and participates as much as possible but there are always things he can't enjoy to the full.

However, the family were given hope when they researched SDR - selective dorsal rhizotomy - a pioneering spinal surgery in America that will permanently release Cavan from pain and "allow him to walk unaided in all environments" by permanently severing the nerves that have caused his tightness.

Inspiration came from another little boy's story, Oliver Dickey from Coleraine who, suffering from the same condition, defied the odds after his surgery in America. Emma said: "Oliver's family have been very supportive in letting us know that this can be done and it's the best decision to make."

Emma said the surgery would be "life-changing" and that even a simple trip to the park would be transformed.

"At the minute I carry him around most places," she said.

"A day out would be completely different. A trip to the park where he could walk rather than crawl."

They are aiming to raise £80,000 to cover the cost of the surgery and the aftercare treatment.

When they reach the £60,000 mark they can book the surgery.

Emma said: "Our hope and dream is to have him walk in to primary one and not have to go in with crutches or a wheelchair."

A Facebook and fundraising page 'Cavan's First Steps' has been launched and so far donations have "humbled" his parents.

"The future looks really good now. I woke up this morning and the donations had gone up and I was just really emotional," said Emma.

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