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Gillingham family: ‘We want to see son take his first steps’

By Western Gazette - North Dorset  |  Posted: December 01, 2012

  • Mother Pauline O’Neill and daughter Maisie, aged four,are hoping to raise £50,000 to fund an operation which could enable Alfie to walk for the first time

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A loving family from Gillingham are looking to raise £50,000 to give their son a new lease of life.

Four-year-old Alfie O’Neill has cerebral palsy after being born prematurely, which has left him unable to walk or crawl.

His family are now looking to raise £50,000 to fund a life-changing operation in America – which could see him take his first steps.

Mother Pauline O’Neill said: “Alfie was born extremely prematurely after 29 weeks. He was in intensive care for two weeks and spent the first eight weeks of his life in hospital. We are lucky to have him.

“It’s so frustrating to know that one operation could change his life forever. We are determined to do whatever it takes to give him the opportunity to enjoy a normal life.

“The greatest gift in the world would be to see him walk.”

Mrs O’Neill and her husband, Dan, are looking to raise money so Alfie can undergo selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery, carried out in Missouri by Dr Park and his team who first pioneered it 30 years ago.

The operation, which is not available on the NHS, involves identifying and cutting the spinal nerves causing stiffness and pain.

The brave youngster currently undergoes physiotherapy in fortnightly blocks to ensure he is strong enough for the operation.

Mrs O’Neill said: “Alfie’s condition hit us hard at first. We wouldn’t want to ask people for help as we thought we were bothering them – but we’ve got to remind ourselves that we are doing this for Alfie.

“He sometimes gets frustrated and as he gets older is beginning to understand he is different.

“It’s hard sometimes when you try everything to make him happy but nothing works. When he sees his little sister Maisie running around it must get to him.”

After starting Wyke Primary School in September, the family were contacted by a group of parents who wanted to help raise funds for Alfie.

Mrs O’Neill said the community’s support felt like “someone had picked up our family and given us a big hug”.

She said: “The level of support we have received makes us stronger.

“I think any parent is apprehensive about their child starting school, and in Alfie’s case, this was even more so.

“However, it’s clear to see he is enjoying his life and we’ve seen a big change in him since he started school.

“It is great he is at a mainstream school. Being around the other children is bringing along his development leaps and bounds.

“The children in his class are really protective of him – he is a very popular boy.”

A children’s party will be held on New Year’s Eve at Riversmeet Leisure Centre, Gillingham, between noon and 2.30pm to raise money for Alfie.

For tickets, contact Laura Williams at 07879 428722, or visit www.alfieoneill.co.uk.

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