Tuesday 26 March 2019

'I want her to have the best shot in life' - family of Sophia (3) dream of leaving her walker behind

Three year old Sophia Griffin pictured with her mum Catriona. Photo: Frank McGrath
Three year old Sophia Griffin pictured with her mum Catriona. Photo: Frank McGrath
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

HER mother dreams of little Sophia - already a talented singer - one day dancing with her friends, but any hope of the child walking unaided, may only come after a €100,000 operation.

Three-year-old Sophia Griffin was diagnosed with Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy just after her second birthday in 2017.

The toddler yearns to walk without a frame, to run along with other children, climb the stairs to play hide-and-seek with her two older siblings and to dance.

But the painful condition, which first showed symptoms shortly after birth, when the the-then infant’s legs trembled - could slowly see her mobility decrease.

Sophia’s parents, full-time mother and carer, Catriona, 32, and husband Gerry, 37, are doing all they can to raise funds to bring their daughter to have Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) surgery at St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri in the U.S.

And they’re asking the public for support via a Just Giving page, to assist in making their dreams for Sophia a reality.

“Sophia is so cute, I know I’m biased but she is and she’s such a determined child,” Catriona said.

“She takes it all in her stride but doesn't have any choice.  Sophia does get frustrated when can’t do the same as her six-year-old brother, Caolán. 

“She can’t follow him upstairs when he’s playing hide-and-seek, she gets frustrated outside, as she can’t run like the other kids and has to use a walker.

“My daughter asks why she has to use the walker or wear braces.  That breaks my heart.

“Most of the time Sophia is very happy but there’s days when she questions why she has all this equipment.

“The older she gets, the more questions will come.  I worry for her future. I don’t want to see her mobility decline as she grows and I don’t want her to keep suffering pain.

“I want my daughter to participate in sports and dance classes.

“She loves to sing and I just want her to have the best shot at life, as any mother would.”

Gerry has taken up running and is planning on partipating in a number of half marathons this year culminating in the Dublin Marathon in October.

The couple have arranged a series of fundraising events and are launching the ‘Happy Feet for Sophia Campaign’ at The Lisdoo bar and Restaurant in their native Dundalk, Co Louth, on March 22.

Those wishing to support them, can buy tickets on the door for €15.

The family have been given a date for the operation in the States - May 2020 - but they’re hoping to even secure a cancellation beforehand if they can raise enough funds.

If the procedure goes ahead as planned, top neurosurgeon T.S Parkwill sever the nerves that cause spasticity, Catriona said.

The mother explained it would take two years, including daily physiotherapy, for Sophia to begin walking unaided.

“It would be like learning to walk all over again,” Catriona said.  “But it would mean one day she’d be able to walk, dance, run and take part in sports.

“I don’t want her to get upset when she can’t go dancing with her friends in future, or when she can’t play basketball after school.

“I don’t want this to impact my daughter - I want her to have a happy and norma life. If it wasn’t possible to improve matters, we’d accept this, as things are.

“But because it’s possible, we have to do everything we can.”

Catriona, who’s also mother to Chloe, 14, said parenting Sophia is a great deal more challenging than had been the case with the other two children.

“I had to leave a full-time job in PayPal in September to become full-time carer for Sophia,” the mother said.

“I have rheumatoid arthritis and so it’s very hard to lift Sophia, to help her dress.  Sometimes it’s difficult when I’m in pain.

“I just want Sophia to have the best chance and it’s very hard asking for help but for your child, you’ll do anything and we hope people can help make this operation happen.”

The family are raffling ‘Picture This’ tickets for the 3Arena in Dublin in March on the Happy Feet for Sophia Facebook Page. 

  • To donate to help raise funds for Sophia’s operation, visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/just4children/happyfeetforsophia?fbclid=IwAR2DFvJRJxWu3Xk8hDIlSWD646dRv74VSz9V2JyV__SbveY1BKlfPoT3O-k

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