Toddler Kaidence Tate with rare form of spina bifida named a ‘superstar’
A little Co Antrim girl born with a rare form of spina bifida has defied the odds to be honoured with a Child Superstar award.
Paula and Barrie Tate from Newtownabbey said three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Kaidence stole the show at the Family First NI awards and gala ball at Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena.
"She's our little diva and we're so proud of her and what she's achieved in her life so far," said Paula.
The awards honour those who have made huge sacrifices and have gone to great lengths to help their families.
The couple were told at Paula's 20-week pregnancy scan that Kaidence would be born with a very rare, serious spina bifida.
Initially, termination was discussed, but Paula was determined to go ahead.
"I just asked them 'Will she be born alive? Will she breathe?' When they said 'yes' there was no question," she said.
"We had been trying for six years for a baby and we were going to have a baby no matter what. We just wanted a little girl we could hold and cuddle and we would deal with anything else thrown at us."
Within an hour of Kaidence's birth, she was undergoing spinal surgery to close her back.
"I didn't know if she would ever come back to me, but she did and we're all so glad she's stayed here ever since," said Paula. "We really couldn't pay for the care she was given by the hospital staff."
That initial operation was just the first for Kaidence.
"When she was just 10 days old she went through brain surgery and now she has other health issues," said Paula, who has two other children.
"Her kidneys don't function properly so her bladder has to be drained into her nappy, but these are the sort of issues we were made well aware of before she was born.
"She was in and out of hospital constantly for the first 18 months, but we're so pleased we had a hospital like the Royal so close to us.
"She was a regular fixture on Paul Ward and made a real impression on everyone there, as everyone there did on us, and I can't thank them enough.
"We knew Kaidence wouldn't have a normal life, and neither would we. But she has Kaidence's life and we have our lives and we're so proud of how she has coped and become a bit of a superstar.
"The staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital supported us all the way and were brilliant. We were well prepared for what Kaidence would have to go through from the moment she was born.
"And the support from Shine UK, the spina bifida charity, was also fantastic and by the time she was born we knew exactly what had to be done."
Kaidence is paralysed from the chest down and will never walk, but at 18 months became the youngest in Northern Ireland to self propel her own wheelchair.
"We were prepared for it and knew, particularly in the early stages of her life, that there was always a chance we would lose her," added Paula.
"But she proved to be a fighter. She deserves all our love and support and that's why it was such a pleasure to see her on the stage last Saturday night getting her Child Superstar award - for that's exactly what she is."