15 Jun Saying thanks for all the help
WHEN Debbie Clelland was pregnant with her second child, she had no inkling anything was wrong.
Then when daughter Abbie was born it was only a mother’s instinct that told her all was not well with her newborn.
“I knew it,” says Debbie, from Newcastle.
“Before she was born we didn’t have a clue. Just afterwards, I knew there was something but I didn’t know what. I thought she might be blind or deaf.”
It was only when an MRI scan of Abbie’s small head was carried out that she was diagnosed with Microchepaly, a congenital condition linked with incomplete development of the brain.
A small head is a typical sign and Abbie’s under-size brain affects her overall development so that now at the age of 15 she is like a nine-month-old baby, says Debbie.
There is no explanation for the condition. Doctors told her it was “probably just one of those things” which possibly happened around the 12-week pregnancy mark when something did not quite gel as it was supposed to, added the 43-year-old, who works two days a week as a co-ordinator for an events company.
Over the years other diagnoses were to follow for Abbie who is one of the children set to benefit from The Chronicle charity’s Go Bananas appeal.
She was also found to have a “genetic deletion” – an aberration in her DNA make-up.
Debbie says: “We didn’t find out until she was 11 that she had it and that was followed later by curvature of the spine, which has happened over the last couple of years as she’s got a bit older. “And she didn’t get epilepsy until she was 10 or 11.
“We’re just hoping she gets nothing else.” She adds: “I don’t Google anything – you just terrify yourself. I just deal with it.”
And she deals with it in a hugely positive way.
Cheerful and upbeat, Debbie, who is married to ceramic tiler Scott and also has an 18-year-old son, Scott junior, said of her daughter: “She’s lovely.”
But Abbie needs somebody with her constantly.
“It’s a massive thing,” says Debbie. “She’s miles behind in everything she does and it’s like having a baby all the time. She has to have everything done for her as she can’t do anything for herself.”
Abbie cannot even be left to crawl on the floor as her parents must be on the alert in case she has an epileptic fit.
But there is one place that the growing teenager is unconstrained and free: the hydrotherapy pool at Sir Charles Parsons School in Newcastle where she attends.
Staff there are great with Abbie, says Debbie, and they also help her to balance and roll on the trampoline to build up her core strength, as she suffers a weak left side.
“But she’s quite a strong little thing!” she adds.
But the pool there is her “favourite thing in the world”.
Debbie says: “She can use it once, sometimes twice a week if she’s lucky, as she’s got to have two people with her and there are other kids to take turns.
“It gives her that feeling of freedom and she loves it.
“From her facial expressions you can see it all. You learn to tell when she is happy and when sad. And when she enjoys it, seeing the expression is just lovely.”
The Sunshine Fund’s June-long Go Bananas appeal, which is out to raise a total of £60,000 to buy equipment for 10 specially-chosen local children, aims to buy Abbie her own hydrotherapy pool at the cost of £4,899.
It will be one of the few things the Clellands can enjoy together as a family, and Abbie would love to share it with older brother Richard.
“She absolutely adores him – and he idolises her,” saye Debbie. “It’s been difficult to find something we can do as a family.”
With holidays, for example, the difficulty has been in finding something to suit everyone. With Scott junior off inter-railing later this summer, the focus this time will be entirely on Abbie and they think a short break in Scotland will suit her.
Later in the year, Debbie herself will be taking a rare trip abroad – in a bid to raise money and say thank-you to the Sunshine Fund for helping Abbie.
Debbie has signed up to its fund-raising Grand Canyon trek and has already raised about £2,000 in sponsorship, thanks to a charity strip night she organised which won match-funding from Barclays Bank. She has a fund-raiser golf day also planned for July.