Tuesday 17 July 2018

Rugby legend Eric Miller on meeting his adopted daughter for the first time - while he was working overseas

Eric, Jenny, Hannah and Nisha. Photo: Nisha's Next Step
Eric, Jenny, Hannah and Nisha. Photo: Nisha's Next Step

Kathy Armstrong and Jason Kennedy

Rugby legend Eric Miller has spoken of his amazement that a work opportunity overseas resulted in his family adopting their beloved daughter.

Eric, his wife Jenny and their daughter Hannah moved from Dublin to Sri Lanka in 2014 when the former Irish international star was offered a coaching job.

Within months they had started the adoption process for a little girl called Nisha.

Nisha suffers from a form of Cerebral Palsy called closed lipped schizenchephaly, which they are now fundraising for pioneering surgery to help treat.

Eric (42) told Independent.ie the amazing story of how they met Nisha, who is now aged six.

He said: "We went over in 2014 because I got a contract to coach rugby at a school there.

"Once we got there there we heard of a visit to a local orphanage through our church, so Jenny decided to go along because she wanted to do some volunteer work.

"It was there that she met Nisha, they locked eyes and her maternal instincts just kicked in.

Eric has called meeting Nisha
Eric has called meeting Nisha "a blessing"

"From there we started visiting the orphanage most days and we all developed a connection with Nisha, I was only over there initially to play rugby but by the end of that year we knew we wanted to look into adopting her."

It took them 14 months of working through red tape but by March 2016 the family had officially adopted Nisha.

He noted: "It took a  lot of hard work and struggles but by that point the bond was formed and I think that was a blessing, it was a really special time."

The Millers then made the decision to return to Ireland so that Nisha could receive medical treatment and go to school here.

Proud father Eric said that he delighted to see his daughter thriving.

He said: "Nisha did a year of creche and now she is in junior infants, she's really embracing life and it's great to see her making progress.

"When you step back and see how far she has come from when she was in the orphanage it is unbelievable, it's just such a change."

Nisha suffers from a form of cerebral palsy that affects her ability to walk, she has been accepted for pioneering surgery in the US, which Jenny and Eric hope will happen as early as next summer.

Sisters Hannah and Nisha have formed a close bond
Sisters Hannah and Nisha have formed a close bond

Eric said: "Nisha's condition affects her lower limbs, so the spasticity in her lower muscles causes her toes to curl in and she struggles to walk.

"This surgery would basically snip some of the muscles that are causing that spasm and she would have to learn to walk again, from square one and there would be very intense physio after the operation.

"We hope this would boost her chances of walking, it's a pioneering surgery that a few Irish families have gotten over the past five or six years."

The surgery and rehabilitation costs €70,773 and the family are overwhelmed that they have managed to raise almost €60,000 so far.

Eric said: "The reaction has been amazing, people have been incredibly generous.

"There have been so many things going on in sport, for example the death of Anthony Foley showed that the world of sport, particularly in rugby, came together.

"On a different spectrum people have really risen to the challenge and dug deep to help us, they seem to have really identified with our story and have wanted to help and support us.

"I think Irish people are unbelievable in general when it comes to fundraising and how people have reacted has really taken us aback and we are appreciative."

  • A fundraiser night for Nisha will take place at Terenure Rugby Club tonight from 8pm, tickets cost €10 on the door or for more information please visit here
  • For more information about Nisha or to donate please visit here

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