Ailbhe, 3, knows her ‘legs are broken’ but ready to face surgery in the US

by Sylvia Pownall
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A three-year-old Dublin girl with Cerebral Palsy has been given the gift of life-changing surgery for Christmas, thanks to the generosity of others.

Niamh O’Leary was told that her daughter, Ailbhe, would be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

But the brave little girl, from Swords, now has the opportunity to travel to America for an operation which could help her walk for the first time.

The trip was made possible after an online appeal raised almost €60,000 in the space of two weeks.

Niamh told Dublin Gazette: “We will never be able to properly thank everyone for what they have done. I can’t explain how much it means to us and to Ailbhe.

“It sounds like a cliche, but for our family it really is like a Christmas miracle.”

Ailbhe O’Leary

Ailbhe was diagnosed with a severe form of Cerebral Palsy called spastic diplegia at ten months old when a brain injury at birth was detected by medics.

Ailbhe’s illness means she suffers from high muscle tone, stiffness, low mobility and pain and cannot walk independently – but it doesn’t stop her from living life to the full.

Proud Niamh, from Broadmeadows in Swords, revealed: “She loves wearing her Wonder Woman costume and she really is a little Wonder Woman.

“She’s full of determination. She genuinely never stops smiling. She’s such a happy person, although now she’s beginning to notice that she’s a bit different.”

Niamh admitted that her only child’s innocent verdict on her condition almost reduced her and dad Barry, from Whitehall, to tears.

She said: “When we found out we could go to America we were talking to her about hospitals and the doctor and going on an airplane.

“She said to me: ‘Yes mammy, because Ailbhe’s legs are broken’.”

The family will fly out to St Louis on February 1 and Ailbhe’s selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery with Dr T S Park is scheduled for February 6.

Dr Park, who has carried out more than 4,000 successful operations, thinks Ailbhe is an excellent candidate for the procedure, which will leave her free of pain.

Niamh said: “This surgery isn’t a cure, you can’t cure Cerebral Palsy. After we come home, there will be lots of physiotherapy and treadmills and vibration plates.

“We’re talking months or maybe years until she’s able to walk independently. But Ailbhe is a fighter, and we’re determined to make the most of the surgery.”

Sadly, Niamh’s mother passed away earlier this year, and the family are planning a quiet Christmas to remember Ailbhe’s beloved ‘Granny Liz’.

Niamh said: “In a way, I think none of this would be happening without her pulling strings up above.”

A fund remains open to help with Ailbhe’s ongoing journey, and you can follow her progress on Facebook and Instagram at ‘Ailbhe’s Wish to Walk’.

To donate online, see the GoFundMe page here.

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