15 Jun Penny needs pennies from caring people
SMILING toddler Penny Turner is taking her first steps and her parents re delighted.
But for Heather and Colin Turner it’s even more special as this is a milestone they never thought they would see.
Penny is 22 months and has spina bifida and within 24 hours of her birth she underwent her first operation.
“So this is a major achievement for us,” said Heather from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea in Northumberland.
“When she first started crawling, we thought that would never happen then suddenly she was standing up – and she has just started taking her first steps. It’s unbelievable – I can tell you.”
Heather, 36, knows that Penny’s mobility might not last. She said: “Kidney failure is the biggest killer of those with spina bifida and the bowel and bladder in a major concern and things can change at the drop of a hat.
“Mobility is at risk as well. Penny was born with a tethered spinal cord and while she is mobile at the moment she could lost that at any point.
“She’s such a strong character; nothing fazes her!” said Heather who has two older daughters, Georgia, nine and seven-year-old Bethany, with 39-year-old Colin who has cerebral palsy.
Bethany was born with a rare lung condition and needed to have part of her lung removed while a baby.
When Heather was pregnant with Penny, she had no idea she had spina bifida.
“It was a late diagnosis – at 28 weeks,” she said. “I was offered a termination at 30 weeks.
“They give you all the statistics to give you an idea of the quality of life the child will have and it’s your decision if you want to continue.”
With having a condition of his own, Colin’s attitude was “we can do this” but Heather admits: “For me, I was not so sure. There’s more to think about that just the child; there’s the other children.”
Penny’s operation after her birth was to remove a sac of spinal fluid from her back and head. It meant seven hours of surgery by the team at the RVI.
“Penny has defied the odds,” said her proud mum. “She is a wonderful little girl and just amazing. I love her to bits.
“She has completely changed my world – she has actually changed the way I view disability, even though I’m married to a disabled person.
“She has given me a different outlook on life.”
Determined Penny impressed her physiotherapist too when she started taking steps. “The physio said she was the youngest child she’d ever seen to use a walking frame so confidently. If Penny wants to do something, she will do it.”
Heather gave up her job as a civil servant to care for Penny.
As “escape time” Heather plays tuba in the Jayess Newbiggin Brass Band, along with her daughters whose school, Grace Darling, is taking part in the Sunshine Fund’s Wear Yellow day on Friday in aid of the Go Bananas appeal.
The family also hope to raise £500 in sponsorship by dressing as bananas for the appeal which is aiming to buy Penny a wheelchair, costing £2,200.
Heather said: “The specialist wheelchair is designed for a child her age. Unfortunately the NHS in our area of Northumberland won’t consider wheelchairs until children are a bit older, about three or four. But this would allow Penny to interact and play with children her own age when she goes to nursery in September.”