11th Feb 2020
Sophie Breen is a happy, bubbly girl who loves music and animals. But behind that smile, this is a little girl facing more than your average 7-year-old, Amanda Cassidy reports.
“Oh, she is a great girl and she really never complains.” Edel Breen smiles fondly as she talks about her daughter Sophie. The seven-year-old is currently in first-class at Kilbarron in Borrisokane, County Tipperary.
“She is always smiling and she takes everything in her stride,” her mother tells us proudly.
And for this family, that path hasn’t been easy.
Sophie was diagnosed with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy aged just three — a condition that affects her legs while also causing pain and tightness.
“Sophie needs lots of physiotherapy, which she doesn’t like very much but she is a great girl and never complains even though it is very painful for her,” Edel explains.
And her condition is worsening.
Muscle stiffness is one of the most common problems with the disorder, which usually manifests in early infancy. Early intervention usually helps provide the best outcome.
“Most importantly it will save her from pain and discomfort”
Spastic Diplegia mostly affects children’s legs and sometimes arms, making them quite contracted. This makes crawling and walking difficult and most often, children will walk on their toes or with a wide “scissor-like gait.”
Their legs can also turn inwards and cross at the knees due to excessive muscle contractions and it is hard for children with the condition to keep their feet flat, affecting balance and coordination.
Then, just a few short weeks ago, Sophie’s family received some positive news — she has been accepted for life-changing selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery in America.
Edel says it is more than they hoped for;
“This surgery could change Sophie’s life. It will stop further deterioration and reduce spasticity. The surgery will improve Sophie’s movement and durability. It will help her to walk flat. It will also allow her to be more active, and hopefully be able to get involved in sports and activities like all her friends. But, and this is the most important thing of all, it will save her from pain and discomfort. I can’t take away the pain, although I wish I could. But I can do this for her.”
I don’t want to regret not doing it in a few years when she has gotten worse
The surgery is being offered to Sophie by the St.Louis children’s hospital in Missouri US next year.
“They don’t offer the surgery in Ireland and the surgery they do offer is only a short-term fix and would have to be done over and over again and eventually weaken the muscles so it’s not really an option,” explains Edel.
“I have been looking into this surgery for two years and met with families who have gone through this. I needed to be sure before making a decision so massive.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to help my daughter.”
I have to try my best for Sophie as I don’t want to regret not doing it in a few years when she has gotten worse. I’ll do whatever it takes to help my daughter.”
The surgery is a spinal surgery and will involve cutting nerves which Edel says is, naturally, quite scary.
However, as the family set out to raise the 100k necessary to achieve their goal of getting Sophie her surgery, she said that is also a scary concept. “We are terrified that we won’t raise enough. We have a long journey ahead, but hopefully, with the help of kind people, we will get there. “
A GoFundMe page has now been set up to raise the funds for what those who love Sophie are describing as the “biggest and best change of her life.”
If you’d like to help Sophie, you can donate here
Image via Edel Breen
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