For seven-year-old Oscar Minto from Whitecross, in Hereford, having a lightweight wheelchair to help him get around has made a big difference to his life. It means he isn’t in so much pain when he’s exhausted from chemotherapy treatments and can also join in activities with his friends and enjoy days out with his family.
Oscar first received a specialist buggy from Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children – the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness – after his parents Katie and Steve were told he had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in May 2014, when he was just four-years-old. Now, after outgrowing his buggy, he has received a lightweight wheelchair to help him continue to go out easily and attend vital hospital appointments.
Newlife provided Oscar with his wheelchair through Newlifeable – www.newlifeable.co.uk – a service which takes redundant disability equipment and recycles and refurbishes it to meet national standards before offering it on a first come, first served basis.
Mum Katie recalls Oscar had been tired, listless and cold while at a holiday park in the UK. A sudden high temperature prompted them to seek medical attention and he was prescribed antibiotics for a suspected chest infection. At home he saw his own GP, but didn’t get any better and became so pale his lips turned white. A few weeks later when Oscar was baking with his mum and sister, he began screaming in pain. A doctor at their local walk-in clinic referred Oscar for blood tests which revealed he had cancer.
Mum Katie said: “It was such a shock, we weren’t prepared for it. No one had even mentioned Leukaemia. The first few weeks were horrific as Oscar began a three and a half year course of chemotherapy. To begin with there were roughly six months of incredibly intensive treatment which saw Oscar lose his hair and spend hours in outpatients. He is now on three years of maintenance treatment which involves daily tablets at home, IV chemotherapy in hospital once a month and lumbar punctures every three months to check his progress.
“Oscar soon became very tired and easily worn out. His joints hurt and as neuropathy affects his tendons, making him flatfooted, he finds it difficult to walk.
“It became difficult for us to go out, especially as I don’t really drive and his sister Jemima was just two. I really needed something I could transport the two of them in, so we applied to Newlife who provided a grant for a specialist buggy and buggy board for Jemima, which was just what we needed and meant they could both be taken out at the same time.”
Almost three years later and with Oscar continuing his chemotherapy regimen until August this year, it had become a struggle to push him in the heavy buggy which was also becoming too small. This promoted the family to turn once more to Newlife.
Kate said: “Oscar loves his wheelchair. It has given him more freedom and has given him his dignity back as he’s no longer in a buggy – and his friends think it is cool. It’s much easier for me to push as it’s lighter and easier to manoeuvre – and he can even self-propel in it too.
“Oscar enjoys going to coffee shops and the cinema and loves going to animal places as well as a family walk in the park. Having the wheelchair means he can do all this and go lots of other places.”
Kate added: “The Newlifeable service was so quick – we had the wheelchair within a week and it has made a massive difference to Oscar.”
Families who would be eligible for a Newlife Equipment Grant – like Oscar’s – can apply for free support through Newlifeable, should the item they need be advertised on the website. However, each item can also be purchased at a substantially reduced price which covers the cost of refurbishment.
This not only enables Newlife to support more disabled children than ever before, it also helps statutory services by saving them storage costs for equipment they can’t allocate locally and at the same time enabling them to meet their legal responsibilities by creating a trusted UK-wide second-hand market.
Newlife Head of Operations Stephen Morgan said: “The number of disabled and terminally ill children in need around the UK is rising – government figures have put this at around one million – but the budgets set for provision through statutory services are declining at local levels. So new and innovative ways must be found to make provision. Newlifeable demonstrates the importance of getting this equipment back into circulation nationally.”
To date, Newlife has recovered over £1.2million of equipment which it has refurbished at a cost of around £210,000.
To find out about the full range of Newlife services, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk. If you would like to find out more about how Newlife supports families in your area, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/herefordshire. The website includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families in the area. Right now, Newlife is working with a two families in Herefordshire, with equipment needs totalling £13,250.
Pictured: Oscar with sister Jemima