Monday 17 June 2019

€100,000 funding needed to help Odie to walk

Surgery in United States is only chance for four year old

Odie with her mum Joan O’Brien
Odie with her mum Joan O’Brien

Alison Comyn

Little Odie O'Brien is a cute and chatty little four-year-old like any other, but a condition called spastic diplegic cerebral palsy means she can't stand unsupported or walk without the aid of her walker.

So, her parents Joan O'Brien and David Hanratty from Highlands are trying to raise over €100,000, as groundbreaking surgery in America could mean Odie may gain use of her legs.

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person's ability to move. This condition affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture, and balance.

Odie's cerebral palsy is caused by a condition called periventricular leukomalacia, or an injury to the white matter of the brain, and this is linked to a heart condition that she was born with known as tricuspid valve dysplasia.

"She is a bright and beautiful little girl, but at home she crawls on the floor or is carried," explains her dad David.

"Her balance is poor, and she needs assistance with all of the normal daily activities; getting to the toilet, moving around, playing, and dressing herself. The spasticity, or tightness, in her legs can be very painful, and we do daily physiotherapy and stretching to try and reduce this. Odie also needs to wear leg splints to try and keep her muscles stretched into normal positions during the day."

In time, the spasticity, or tightness in Odie's legs will increase, which means that her pain may also increase. There is also the possibility that she may lose the ability to use her walker and will need a wheelchair.

"We have been given hope by world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. T.S. Park of St. Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri, USA, who has evaluated Odie and considers her to be a candidate for selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery," adds mum Joan, who will graduate soon as a midwife.

"This amazing, life-changing surgery involves the cutting of nerves in the spine which connect the brain to the muscles in the legs to permanently reduce the tightness and pain and allow for walking. It is not performed in Ireland, and the HSE do not routinely fund this through the Hospital Treatment Abroad scheme."

"Raising the money is obviously a huge challenge for us and we hope to fundraise through community events and through donations wherever possible," says David.

"We have a surgery date scheduled for June 2019 so we hope Odie can reach her dream of walking, running and dancing."

If you would like to make a donation, visit or follow events on the facebook page Odie Wants to Walk.

Drogheda Independent