Courage and fortitude are qualities that seven-year-old Sophie Nugent, from West Sussex, has in abundance.
Last year she travelled to Missouri in America for ground-breaking surgery – Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy – to help ease her cerebral palsy. Mum Debra Nugent said: “The results of the surgery have been amazing; Sophie has gone from being unable to walk unaided at all to being able to get around over short distances with the use of crutches.”
As life-changing as they surgery has been, however, Sophie is still unable to walk more than a few yards/metres at a time – “It’s just too much for her little legs” – and so needs to use a wheelchair when she is outdoors.
Her existing wheelchair is heavy and cumbersome, but, says Debra, statutory services will not provide a lightweight alternative. She added: “It’s all about independence for Sophie. The weight of the existing wheelchair means she has to rely on someone else to push her around much of the time.”
A lighter model would mean more opportunities to explore the world around her. For instance, days out with her mum are restricted because Debra’s own hip condition means she cannot lift the current wheelchair in and out of the family car. Sophie could also take part in more school trips – she attends West Park C of E School in West Sussex.
The lightweight wheelchair which best meets Sophie’s postural needs costs £2,400, so her parents turned to leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation for help with funding.
Newlife CEO Sheila Brown said: “Equipment ‘enables’. It can mean the difference between comfort and pain, engagement or isolation, freedom or a worsening condition. Therefore, our equipment grants are vital to so many children, offering practical support to families. Equipment can range from beds and wheelchairs – like this one for Sophie – to specialist seating and communication aids. Equipment costing from hundreds to several thousands of pounds really can enhance a child’s life.”
Newlife has awarded £62,305 in equipment grants to 38 children in West Sussex. But the charity is experiencing hugely increased demands on its resources; calls to the Newlife Nurse Helpline – 0800 902 0095 – have shot up by 81 per cent. This is an average of 300 calls a week, with thousands more hits on the charity’s website https://newlifecharity.co.uk
“Because of the huge demand,” said Sheila, “we are calling on ‘local heroes’ to help us raise money to fund equipment inWest Sussex. Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of any gift or donation will go directly to support disabled children in the area.”
If you think you can help, the Newlife Community Fundraising Team can be contacted on freephone 0800 988 4640. Any individual or organisation thinking of running a fundraising event is asked to contact the team, who can offer support and guidance.
Any money raised in excess of Sophie’s needs will be used to help other disabled and terminally ill children in West Sussex.
Pictured: Sophie Nugent trials a lightweight wheelchair.