LAST DECEMBER Michael Tiron received the best Christmas present he could ever have hoped for.
The 11- year- old, who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of one, was accepted for a life-changing operation in St. Louis'; Children';s Hospital in Missouri, USA which will help him to walk.
Michael has been in a wheelchair since he was three, but he dreams of joining a football team some day.
However, his parents face a race against time to raise the €60,000 to cover the cost of operation and post-operation physiotherapy. Without any HSE funding available, they are on their own. And they don't have the money.
With the operation set for this August, Michael's parents Natalija and Marcel have launched a campaign ' Michael's Hope For Independence,' together with his school St. Cronan's in Bray, asking people for help to raise the funds needed for this life-changing opportunity.
Michael was born prematurely on July 6, 2000, in Holles Street Maternity Hospital at 33 weeks by emergency caesarean section.
He weighed just 3lb. For his parents Marcel and Natalija it was the scariest and most difficult time of their lives.
They experienced the same nervous and excited anticipation that all parents feel when expecting a first child. That was until Natalija was admitted to the hospital and told that something had gone wrong and that the doctors would have to perform a C-section the next day to save the baby.
Michael didn't experience any complications, even after being born so prematurely. 'He was so tiny, he could fit in just my two hands,' said Natalija.
At that moment, Natalija thought, ' He's a little fighter! He' ll get through this and we will do everything we can to give him the life that he deserves! Although honestly speaking, we had absolutely no idea what was waiting for us down the road.' At the age of one, Michael was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and referred to Marino Clinic with Enable Ireland where he received weekly physiotherapy, speech & language and occupational therapy.
Michael still attends Marino Clinic and receives amazing support from the therapists. Last year he even started horse riding as part of his physio and loved it ever since.
Even though Michael didn't speak till the age of three, he was still making some good progress in his early years, and started pre-school in St. Fergal's in Bray. After that Michael was enrolled in St. Patrick's NS. He transferred to St. Cronan's B. N. S. after Junior and Senior Infants, where he is now in 5th class.
Aged three, Michael was put in the wheelchair which he hated until he learned to get himself around in it. 'I still remember the day we were offered a wheelchair for Michael, it was said to be for his own good, he has to get around somehow. I remember I cried for the whole day. I didn't want to accept it, I was afraid of it. But then Marcel and I made the decision that this wouldn't be forever; we would never stop looking for help,' said Natalija.
Throughout Michael's life, Marcel and Natalija have searched for help everywhere. They have travelled to Latvia, Moldova and even Moscow in Russia with Michael, and he has had four medical procedures performed on him. Three of these, called ' Tenders Release' were carried out in Russia, and they were very similar to Botox, only it's done in a much larger area, from the face down to the toes.
The first two were a huge success; Michael started speaking, crawling, sitting up, pulling himself up and so on. But the third one was a disaster. It slowed his development process and even took away some of the abilities that Michael had gained.
'It basically threw him back in time,' said Natalija. A similar Botoxstyle procedure was conducted in Ireland which yielded no results.
Michael stayed very strong throughout the whole process and continues to get very excited about the daily progress he is making. 'Every day Michael finds himself learning something new and wants more,' said his parents.
Natalija and Marcel say that Michael has never asked why he can't walk or what's wrong with him. ' We have never made a big deal of it at home. Nobody treats him any differently and Michael doesn't want to see himself as any different. He wants to be just like his friends. Michael has always been popular and has always interacted very well socially with his class mates. He is a very bright and fun-loving boy with great sense of humour, and a huge love of football.'
His sister Rebecca, who is 10, is a great inspiration in life by being so energetic and active ever since she was a baby.
'Rebecca has been a fantastic help to Michael throughout the years: they play together, do homework together, almost everything together. '
he success rate of the SDR operation (Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy) is extremely positive. ' The doctors say that 100 per cent of patients who have undergone this procedure have experienced increased mobility,' said Natalija explaining that they met up with another family whose son had the surgery two years ago. He is now walking independently.
The fundraising events kick off with a coffee morning in the Strand Hotel on Friday, March 24, at 10.30 a.m. and a table quiz also in the Strand Hotel on Friday, March 2, at 8.30 p.m.
You can donate online, and keep track of the progress of the campaign along with the fundraising events on www.michaelshopeForindependence.com and Michael's school website www.stcronans.ie