Four-year-old Oliver Williams was born prematurely at 25 weeks, in the bathroom of his home in Vicars Cross, Chester. He was finally discharged from hospital seven months later, still using oxygen until he was a year old.
He has defied all the odds – and doctors’ concerns that he would be ‘a shell’ – and is a lively, loving little boy and older brother to 22-month-old sister Alice. But his traumatic birth has left him with a neurological condition that affects learning and mobility.
Mum Siobhan Williams says: “Oliver needs a little extra support with every day activities. He has no sense of balance and struggles to sit unsupported; if he gets excited, over-reaches himself or is tired he will topple over – which is dangerous for him as he has no save reaction. Oliver loves to sit at a little table and chairs set we have for him and Alice, but although the chairs are suitable for Alice they aren’t suitable for Oliver as they don’t have arms to stop him toppling out and are slippery so he slides down them. If he wanted to play with Alice at the table someone would always have to stand behind him to stop him from falling out of the chair.
“Local statutory services have given us a special-needs high chair to help support him when he is eating, and couldn’t offer a second piece of seating for us to use at home. We knew just what he needed, because he is able to use the equipment at pre-school.”
So the Williams family turned to Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children, which has now provided specialist seating to support Oliver in a range of activities. Siobhan says: “It helps him join in with family fun and do more things for himself – like playing shops. Oliver’s alternative is to lie on the floor, but this restricts his ability to play.
“Having the supportive seating has made a big difference; for instance, when the weather was lovely he was able to sit out in the garden and join in a ball game; otherwise, he would have been lying on his back with the sun in his eyes.”
Newlife was able to respond quickly to Oliver’s needs, thanks to a fantastic plastic initiative by fashion chain River Island. The profit from the sale of every five-pence carrier bag at every one of its stores across the UK is donated to Newlife – which, so far, amounts to £500,000, every penny of which is being used to provide specialist equipment for disabled and terminally ill children.
Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “As local authority budget cuts continue to bite, more and more families are turning to charities like Newlife for specialist equipment which can have a significant effect on young lives. Having the national support of River Island is an enormous boost for us.”
To find out more about how Newlife supports local families through a range of equipment services, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/cheshire. Oliver is one of 450 children in the county to be helped, with equipment totalling £582,037. The charity is currently working with a further 22 families in the area, with equipment needs totalling £46,900.
If you think you could help a local child, go to the website and Donate. Alternatively, contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444, email [email protected]. Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of monies donated or fundraised in Cheshire will be used to specifically help local children with disabilities and terminal illness.
PICTURED: OLIVER WILLIAMS