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Spinal surgery so he can sit upright has left Oldham teenager Thomas Gardner unable to lift his arms to carry out the sort of daily tasks we all take for granted.

After waiting for 12 months for help from statutory services, leading children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation has now stepped in to provide a simple piece of equipment that will enable Thomas to clean his own teeth, feed himself, brush his hair – and be able to change television channels – for the first time in over a year.

Thomas – a pupil at New Bridge School in Oldham – has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is a degenerative condition causing muscle weakness. Following surgery two years ago to insert a spinal rod, Thomas’s ability to lift his arms has deteriorated.

Mum Sarah Buckley said: “At the moment I have to clean Thomas’s teeth and feed him  . . . if he has an itch on his face he has to ask someone else to scratch it for him. Specialist arm supports will give him back the ability to do all these things – and more – for himself. He is just like any teenager, he needs his independence.”

Thomas said: “I will be able to do things for myself and not rely on others, making me more independent.”

The family asked local statutory services to provide the £3,231 arm supports but were turned down because it was considered there were ‘no additional clinical/health benefits’. Three subsequent appeals have failed, so Thomas’s physiotherapist recommended the family apply to Newlife Foundation for help.

Last year (2013/14) the charity awarded 1,303 Equipment Grants nationally, totalling £2,088,105 – 85 of these were in Lancashire (£86,649).

Recognising the urgency of the situation, Thomas’s application was fast-tracked and he will shortly be receiving the equipment to give him back a bit of independence.

Sarah added: “It will make a massive difference to Thomas’s daily life.”

As well as Equipment Grants, Newlife offers emergency equipment loan services to help families of disabled, terminally ill and life-limited children. Six youngsters in Lancashire are currently being supported through these services.

Demand across the county for all Newlife services has risen sharply over the last year, so the charity has appointed a regional Awareness and Fundraising Manager to help ensure continued support for families of disabled and terminally ill children in Lancashire.

David Reeves joined the charity last month and said: “What attracted me to Newlife Foundation is the guarantee that 100 per cent of all funds donated or raised go directly to buy specialist equipment for children in need. People can designate which county their money is used in and because of the charity’s transparent accountability I can tell everyone exactly how their funds have been spent.”

David is keen to hear from any local individuals, social and community groups or business organisations which might consider supporting Newlife Foundation in Lancashire, either through fundraising or volunteering activities. He can be contacted on 07854 425 273 or by emailing

Pictured: Thomas Gardner.

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