An Irish family has paid an emotional 'thank you' to supporters and the Herald as they jetted out to the US for life-changing surgery for their three-year-old son.
Kevin and Fidelma Dolan yesterday flew with their family from Dublin to Missouri for pioneering surgery so their son, Mark (3), can walk normally.
The couple mortgaged themselves to the hilt to raise €60,000 of the estimated €135,000 cost for Mark's surgery and rehabilitation in St Louis.
Thanks to dedicated supporters in their native Galway - and publicity from the Herald - the couple are now within sight of their fundraising target.
"There are a few events still to be staged, so hopefully we will creep over the line either this month or next month," Kevin explained.
"But we are absolutely thrilled that Mark will finally get the surgery and his chance at a normal life. We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts."
The brave parents vowed they would not rest until Mark had every chance of walking and living a normal life. Mark was assessed as an ideal candidate for Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR), at a clinic in St Louis, Missouri.
The clinic has already helped several other Irish children suffering from conditions such as cerebral palsy and motor delay syndrome (MDS), which Mark suffers from.
However, the procedure is not funded by the HSE.
"We owe it to Mark to give him every chance of walking like any other child," Kevin said.
"We have done everything we possible can here in Ireland and tried every possible treatment option."
Mark and his twin sister, Maeve, were born five weeks prematurely on August 9, 2012.
While Maeve suffered no ill-effects, Mark was diagnosed with MDC which primarily affects his legs. Mark's mother, Fidelma, works with an early intervention team, and has devoted the past three years to researching what can be done to best help Mark.
"We just weren't going to accept that Mark was going to be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life. What parent would," she said.
The family, from Ahascragh, Co Galway, eventually found Limerick specialist Dr Senthilkumar Periyasamy.
Mark made good progress with his Limerick treatments.
Dr Senthilkumar assessed the SDR procedure in the US as offering Mark the best chance.
"We have dedicated every moment of our lives to following through with this treatment which has meant many sacrifices," Kevin said.
The family juggled full-time-jobs and travelling to Limerick three times a week for Mark's sessions with Dr Senthilkumar, while also trying to offer a normal life to their other children, Anna-Mai (8) and Maeve (3).
The family also maintain 'Mark's Wish To Walk' Facebook page.