A-grade student Olivia Dodd, from Rock Ferry in Birkenhead, is overcoming chronic pain and tiredness to take on the challenge of university life in September – thanks to the sale of thousands of plastic carrier bags.
A mobility scooter, without which she couldn’t get about, is being provided through fashion store chain River Island’s ‘fantastic plastic initiative’. The profit from every five pence carrier bag sold at every one of the chain’s UK stores goes to Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children to directly fund vital specialist equipment, like the scooter for Olivia.
She was diagnosed with the debilitating conditions Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia at the beginning of 2016. Mum Jacqueline Dodd says: “Olivia suffers with chronic pain throughout her body and extreme fatigue. To get around outside she has to be pushed in a manual wheelchair because she hasn’t got the strength to propel it herself, and even walking up and down a flight of stairs is like going for a trek.”
Olivia feared her dreams of leaving home and going to university were over. However, the mobility scooter means she can now take up her unconditional place to study psychology at Lancaster University at the start of the new academic year in September. She said: “It will enable me to go for my shopping and things and to socialise if I’m not too tired."
Because she can still walk short distances Olivia does not qualify for a powered wheelchair, but she wouldn’t be able to walk around a university campus – or look after herself independently – and couldn’t expect to be pushed everywhere at university in her manual wheelchair.
Since January 2016 Olivia has had to gradually reduce the number of hours she could attend school, due to her condition, and has been home-schooled since October last year. Olivia recently sat her A-level exams in psychology, geography and English literature.
Jacqueline said: “It is only when you have a health condition that you actually realise how disability-friendly – or not – a place is. Olivia had to rely on her friends to push her around at school, but that became harder and harder so since October she has been keeping up with her work at home, going in to school to see her teachers a couple of times a week.”
Olivia added: “The good news is I can look forward to a life at university, studying psychology, now I am getting the mobility scooter. It will enable me to go for my shopping and things and to socialise if I’m not too tired."
The scooter is costing £2,195; the family have raised £750 themselves, but, says mum Jacqueline, “With all the costs associated with going to university, it would have been extremely difficult for us to find the full amount for the equipment.”
So Olivia’s occupational therapist recommended the family contact Newlife, which in Merseyside alone has supported 658 babies, children and young people. Right now, the charity is working with the families of a further 28 children, with equipment needs totalling £23,840. If you think you could help a local child, go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk/merseyside and donate now. Alternatively, contact the Newlife Supporter Relations Team on 01543 462777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: Olivia Dodd