Wednesday 16 October 2019

Sophia flies out to USA for life-changing surgery

Margaret Roddy

Four-year-old Sophia Griffin flew out to the United States on Saturday with her parents Gerry and Catriona and brother Caolan, where she will undergo surgery to help her live as full a life as possible.

Sophia was diagnosed with Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy and PVL (Periventricular Leukomalcia) of the brain just after her second birthday in 2017, and her parents launched a major fund-raising campaign so that they could bring her to the United States to have revolutionary surgery performed by top Neurosurgeon Dr. T. S. Park in St. Louis's Children's Hospital Missouri.

Having reached the €100,000 target earlier this year, they were delighted to be told that Sophia's surgery could go ahead, after she had a pre-op assessment in March.

They have been told that Sophia will be able to walk independently and even participate in leisure sports once she has the ground-breaking surgery.

'I am very grateful that we have got the opportunity to do this for her and to give her the best opportunity for the future,' said mum Catriona.

However, she admitted that she was also nervous about her daughter having to undergo four and a half hours surgery on Thursday.

'At the end of the day, it's major spinal surgery and is not without risks but we have to give her every chance we can.'

She said that they are extremely grateful to the people of Dundalk who opened their hearts and responded to the Happy Feet campaign.

'I want to thank everyone who helped us. The community came out in droves to support us,' she said, adding that they have been overwhelmed by the influx of get well cards and presents for Sophia.

Sophia will be examined by the medical team tomorrow (Wednesday) ahead of going for surgery on Thursday.

'It's a long operation but the doctors will ring us every half an hour to let us know how it is going,' explained Catriona.

After the surgery, Sophia will have to lie on the flat of her back for three days, after which the physiotherapy team will begin working with her.

'She will spend one week in hospital and after that she will have two hours intensive physiotherapy each day for the rest of our stay,'

The family will be in the United States for five weeks, and have rented an apartment close to the hospital.

'It's just a ten minute walk to the husband and both myself and Gerry will be tagging, so that one of us is in the hospital with Sophia and the other with Caolan,' explained Catriona. 'Caolan is six and himself and Sophia are very close, so it will be a welcome distraction for her to have him here with us.'

Sophia's older sister, who is at post-primary school, is staying at home in Ireland with her grandparents. 'We are looking forward to coming back home on October 25 when Sophia is back on her feet after surgery,' said Catriona.

The Argus