What we’ve learned from Rio 2016

2cfc75d26f32e6608791a5263d92e52b-rio-2016-olympic-logo-vectorBack in 2012, we spent hours glued to our TV screen as London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic games. We were lucky enough to be able to take the children to see some of the sports at both events and I reflected then on the need for EGID and food allergy heroes to help inspire G and M to be the very best they can be without letting their health issues get in the way of their dreams. Four years on and it’s the 2016 Olympics in the much more exotic, though sometimes equally wet, location of Rio and our family are just as absorbed in watching as much as we can, even with the added challenge of the time difference to negotiate. I have enjoyed seeing the children cheering their favourites on, but even more I have loved the emerging stories of some of those competitors which have really struck a resounding chord with me. We are not surprised by the tales of amazing fortitude that are revealed during the Paralympics, but these are individuals who have beaten the odds and are competing at the highest level against fellow athletes who do not have to battle against health challenges in the Olympics.

SMOCOur first inspirational athlete is British swimmer, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, who won silver in the 200m individual medley at the Rio games. Not only did she win a silver medal, but she also broke the British record and all that whilst living with the effects of Ulcerative Colitis on her body. Siobhan-Marie was diagnosed with this inflammatory bowel disease following London 2012 and that diagnosis has resulted in the right medication and improved health helping her to succeed in her training and getting her to the Olympics this year. This has a particular resonance for me as UC is not dissimilar to M’s Eosinophilic Colitis as it causes inflammation to the colon, although with UC tiny ulcers develop on the lining of the rectum and the colon as well. To push her body beyond the pain and fatigue that I know will be plaguing her during flares in order to achieve excellence in her sport requires a determination and positivity that is truly remarkable.

AMHaving read about Siobhan-Marie’s success whilst living with Ulcerative Colitis, I thought I had found a potential candidate for a role model for both M and G; and then I saw an article about the Italian fencer, Aldo Montano, who is living with a severe and potentially life-threatening dairy allergy. Aldo was diagnosed with this allergy as a baby and has learned to adapt to his environment and to make food choices that will keep him healthy and keep anaphylaxis at bay. His lifestyle as an athlete does not, perhaps, easily lend itself to living with an allergy, but Aldo is clear that he does not let this allergy define him “…It is easy to get scared. I understand the fear of not trusting anyone and not wanting to eat anywhere other than at home. But I have had to figure it out — because my life choice is to compete and I have to travel…” I don’t know that either child will ever aspire to be Olympic fencing champions, but if they can adopt Aldo’s attitude that “…my secret is the same as Superman’s: stay away from kryptonite. If I stay clear of dairy, I am super strong. My secret is to stay away from it, and be positive…” then I am certain they will see success in their chosen field.

These are not the only amazing stories of these games, but they are both inspirations to our family in particular and there are so many other athletes who have overcome struggles that make their achievement in reaching Rio all the more sweet too such as British gold-medal diver, Chris Mears, who has beaten unbelievable problems to become a British record-maker in 2016. There have also been those who have suffered shocking accidents in pursuit of their dreams whilst there and are already on the road to recovery and focusing on their next goal; Dutch cyclist Van Vluten comes to mind. As for what we’ve learned from Rio 2016, well really it’s simple: that focus, determination and a desire to succeed can beat physical injury and serious health problems every time, so don’t let your chronic illness define who you are or dictate what you can become.

Summer Bakes

tumblr_static_wendy2The first 3 weeks of the summer holidays were filled with clubs and camps and activities and I needed to create some M-friendly bakes that could be packed into a lunch-box or, in the case of
Over The Wall, included as a bedtime snack to share during the evening cabin chat session with the rest of his team. With M’s tally of safe foods still stuck at 5, I wanted to bake something new, something we hadn’t tried before, and where better to start than a quick search using my trusty internet search engine. There are not many recipes out there that incorporate those safe ingredients only, so I looked for some vegan and gluten-free suggestions and decided to do the rest of the tweaking myself where necessary.

The first recipe I found was for Pear blondies, a vanilla version of the ever-popular chocolate brownie without, rather obviously, the chocolate and I was intrigued to see if this could be made for M. Using apple purée as my egg replacer, I stirred my mix and then kept my fingers crossed as the small cakes went into the oven. The smell as they baked was amazing and, as always, a certain young gentleman appeared alongside me as I pulled the final product out, ready to cool. The quantity was enough to make a dozen bitesize blondies, which were perfect as a snack during his busy days. Both children enjoyed the blondies, with IMG_0762[1]M particularly keen on the small chunks of pear that had become melt-in-the-mouth and golden as they baked in the sponge mix.

My second new baking venture were Pear and Ginger cookies, which seemed to me to be a perfect combination of sweet and spice, something I was sure M would love. This was another easy recipe to whip up, made from the staples stored in my kitchen cupboards. The dough made an impressive 18 cookies and within minutes of them hitting my cooling rack, my hopeful duo found something important to do in the kitchen in the hope they might be successful in picking up a stray biscuit as they passed. However, whilst they were tempted to taste one straight from the oven, the lure of the lemon icing to be drizzled when the cookies were finally cooled was enough to gain me around 20 minutes extra before my store started to be depleted. These were an amazingly good bake as the rice flour didn’t make the cookies taste granular at all and the ginger was subtle enough to give a little extra heat without overpowering the sweetness of the pear. The children were both big fans of this bake too and I was intrigued to see which one M would settle on as his final choice for taking to OTW camp. In the end, much as he loved both of these new treats, he decided the pear and ginger cookies would be his cabin chat snack of choice and the empty pot returning from camp was all the proof I needed that they had been a success.

Best. Week. Ever.

Back at the end of March, G was lucky enough to attend the amazing Over The Wall sibling camp and had the experience of a lifetime. I knew just how much of a success that week away from home had been almost the minute she stepped off the bus as she asked with fervour if we could apply for her to go again next year. The last few weeks have been filled with a mix of emotions as M was thrilled to learn that he had been offered a place on the OTW Health Challenges camp this August, but the ongoing drama with his broken leg left us questioning whether he’d actually be able to go (of course he would, it’s a camp for kids with health challenges after all), and take part  (well as best as his leg and determination would allow), and get from it as much as his sister had (we could only hope). Fortunately, the final fracture clinic appointment that saw M being given the all-clear and discharged from the care of the orthopaedic team fell on the Friday before IMG_0791[1]he was due to head off to camp on the Monday and the assurance of the consultant that his leg was at long last fully healed gave M the confidence he needed that he could fully participate in all the activities on offer during the week.

It was a major event in our household. It’s the first time that M has been able to go away from home without being with family; he’s never even had a sleepover because of his bowel problems and sleep issues and so it was unsurprising that our car journey to Dorset was eerily quiet as he struggled to get his anxieties under some semblance of control. It was a very pensive boy who clung to my hand as we found our way to the welcome desk to sign him in, although by the time I left around 2 hours later, with medicines handed over to the Beach Hut medical team and clothes unpacked and safely put away, he was starting to warm a little to his surroundings and had already enjoyed a hysterical couple of games of Guess Who? with 2 of the volunteers. Seeing the other children chatting and laughing as they arrived on-site, it was easy, even for me, to forget that these are children living with serious illnesses. Illnesses which are sometimes life-limiting and are always life-impacting. My child was one of them. IMG_0792[1]And when M commented on how comfortable his bed was compared to the ones in hospital I could see the volunteers in the room with us, both of whom were new this year, take a deep breath, unexpectedly shaken just a little by this vivid reminder that every child there is facing a chronic illness that is not always obvious at first glance. I was not immune to the pathos of that situation and my heart broke a little that this was his first thought, his opening response to this new experience.

Knowing he was settled and in safe hands meant that I could leave the site almost without a backwards glance. I could see he was torn between wanting to give me a hug and kiss goodbye and not wanting to show affection in front of his new room-mates, so I offered a quick hug and a kiss on the head before heading back to my car, not giving him opportunity to wobble. Despite concerns to the contrary from other people, this Mummy was fine with leaving her boy there because I had absolute confidence that they would take care of him and support him and make sure he had a week where the medical implications of his everyday world were not at the forefront of his mind. The lack of communication during the week could easily have worried me senseless, but instead I knew that it really was a case of “no news is good news” as camp would only get in touch if things were going wrong. I was also confident that they were more than able to meet his dietary requirements and would make the effort to give him meals that were more than just simple rice and chicken. Not long after the end of G’s sibling camp, I menuhad been sent a draft menu for M that one of the camp chefs had devised based on his safe foods at the time and we were all drooling at the sound of some of the dishes. In the 2 weeks leading up to camp, OTW contacted me again to check whether there had been any changes to his diet and to reassure me that they were prepared for the challenge of feeding him whilst he was there.

I can’t even begin to describe how I felt when I picked him up the following Saturday. G joined me for the drive to Dorset and was able to share so many precious memories of her own as we went through the gates and along the drive towards the house. We pulled up to the grassed area which was ablaze with colour as the various groups gathered to wave goodbye to all the campers as they started their journey home. M was the last Orange Boy standing and the farewell given to him by the team volunteers saw more than one of us with tears in our eyes. Seeing this group of wonderful adults, who had become his family for the week, surround him and sing “M, we love you, deep down in our hearts…deep down….” to him with genuine affection brought a definite lump to my throat, not least because M was equally overcome by his emotions and obviously struggling not to give into them in public.

IMG_0812[1]As they lined up outside the car and waved us off, the atmosphere inside was in stark contrast to when we arrived as M sat smiling bravely, with tears rolling down his cheeks because he wasn’t ready to leave camp and go back home. He was emotionally and physically exhausted, but refused to let sleep overcome him, instead spending the entirety of our homeward journey sharing every tiny aspect of the week he’d just enjoyed. As M told us about camp, he was worried that he would hurt my feelings when he said that the chef cooked some delicious meals that were, in the most part, “..even better than yours Mummy!”, but I didn’t mind a bit. His close new friendship with one of the other boys in his team, who also had food allergies, meant that neither of them felt isolated as they sat next to each other as their food was served at each meal. And my heart swelled when he said he hadn’t really missed us or thought of us that much because he had been having such a good time as I understand that that was so much more than I could ever have wanted for his first experience away from home.

It’s hard to encapsulate just why this week was such a significant one for M, but it really has been an incredible and life-changing experience. For once he felt normal and not the exception in the group, and that alone is priceless to me.  M’s confidence has soared as he pushed himself, and his body, to the limit and tried new activities that would have scared him before and his honesty impressed me as he relayed just how terrifying some of those new experiences had been until he had a go and conquered those fears. He has developed more independence and an even greater awareness of other people that reflects more maturity than he had before. Yesterday he took responsibility for making his own breakfast and even asked G and me what we wanted to eat so he could make our breakfasts too. That may seem like nothing much, but for a child where the world really has revolved around his needs over the last decade, it was a huge shift in attitude.

My words cannot do justice to the time he had at OTW camp, but I know how fantastic it was as he is already asking if he can go back again – not just next year, but every year until he’s too old to be a camper any more. What’s more, his aim is to become a volunteer at camp eventually if he can. M expressed it best when he told me it had been the Best. Week. Ever.

 

Snack-time specials

In addition to the great new breakfast and dinnertime finds from our trip to this year’s Allergy Show in London, we also managed to stock up on an impressive number of allergy-friendly snacks, some suitable for G, some just gluten-free and even one for M. Snack-time is always the hardest time of day to cater for in my experience. You want something that will satisfy your child long enough to stop the complaints that they’re “starving” and “have to eat now!“, without spoiling the next meal which is probably only 15 minutes away, but far too long for them to actually wait without moaning that their stomachs have been cut off and are feeling unloved and abandoned. I find it particularly hard to find something suitably satisfying for M and much as he loves my many bakes, I’m not so keen on giving him too many sweet treats on too regular a basis.

IMG_0805[1]Emily Fruit Crisps were an incredible find and an instant big hit with M. We were all intrigued by not just their apple crisps, which were reassuringly safe for M, but also their surprisingly tasty vegetable crisps: green bean crisps anyone? They are a great alternative to normal potato crisps with none of the slight after-taste that M has complained about with other apple crisp brands. I took advantage of a great show offer and stocked up on a dozen packs, although only 10 made their way home with us as M munched on the odd bag or 2 as we wheeled him around for the rest of the day. Whilst not widely available in many of the mainstream supermarkets, you can buy them through Ocado and, weirdly enough, will apparently find them in your local Topshop too!

M’s marks: 12/10

IMG_0739[1]One of my biggest disappointments had to be discovering this amazing product and realising that it was very nearly safe for M, but not quite. Le Pain des Fleurs Cocoa Crispbread is made from rice flour, sugar and cocoa powder and it’s that last ingredient that means that they’re not suitable for M at the moment. They are not easy to source, but a good search on the internet will uncover a few independent stockists of this lovely snack.

IMG_0840[1]This next product has to be one of my favourite finds of the whole show and I know G is equally delighted that we were pointed in the direction of this sweet treat. The Foods of Athenry Cookie Shots are bite-size G-friendly chocolate brownies and are absolutely delicious. I had never come across this family run Irish bakery before, but I will be eternally grateful to the lovely Julia of Alimentary Bites, who not only welcomed us with open arms to the Allergy Adventures stall, but then whispered this fabulous find to me and told me where I could go to buy our own pack. They are satisfyingly chocolatey and taste sufficiently indulgent without being big enough to spoil your appetite, especially when you’re a chocolate-loving tween. NB – whilst the cookie shots are MEWS-free, they are not made in a nut-free environment

G’s marks: 9.5/10

IMG_0839[1]These next two offerings are both gluten-free, chocolate-laden snacks, but sadly not dairy-free. I have chosen to mention them because they are great alternatives for those living on a gluten-free diet and I think they would be a perfect addition to the store cupboard for anyone who can safely eat them. The first is a Twix-esque chocolate bar, with a biscuit base, caramel filling and chocolate outer layer. I’ll be honest that they don’t quite hit the mark for me, but I am reliably informed by gluten-free friends that they are really delicious. Made by Dr Schar, Chocolix bars are individually wrapped, making them ideal for lunch-boxes or to carry in your handbag for whenever you might need one, and can supposedly be bought at more than one of the supermarket chains, though I have to confess that I haven’t spotted them gracing the shelves of our local IMG_0841[1]Sainsburys since I discovered them. The other is a fantastic snack that has become a personal favourite and another product from company, Le Pain des Fleurs, this time called Crousty rolls. These interestingly named treats are light chocolate biscuits which are rolled and then filled with a deliciously decadent hazelnut and cocoa cream. Just as with the Chocolix, the rolls are wrapped in pairs, which allows you to enjoy the treat whilst keeping the rest fresh for another day. These biscuits are quite sweet, but I can imagine that they would be a wonderful addition to a bowl of ice-cream for a truly indulgent dessert.

Lost in Translation

As Mum to a child with additional health needs, you have to be prepared the minute you venture outside your front door. You don’t just carry with you the medicines, equipment and food items you need to get you through the next few hours relatively unscathed, but also the necessary mental strength to explain your child’s needs to everyone you encounter and ensure that your trip outside of the safe bubble at home goes as smoothly as it possibly can. There are, of course, times when an essential gets left on the kitchen counter and you have to think on your feet and find a solution that will work until you get back home, and, for us, there have been times when, despite the clear explanations given and the seeming comprehension of the waiting staff, mistakes have been made and the children have suffered the consequences of those misunderstandings.

global-travel-destinations

When you add travelling abroad to the mix, those unavoidable stresses become even more intense and, as an allergy Mum, I can tell you that worries about safe food are right at the top of the list. As you may remember, last year we decided to stay in the UK during that first holiday season with a tube in place and had the most amazing week in Cornwall, where we discovered hidden treasures of restaurants and sight-seeing spots that we are still talking about nearly 12 months on. However, we decided that this year we would venture back to a favourite haunt and visit the Algarve in Portugal, with a few extra days in Lisbon tacked on to the start of our trip. We know the resort of Alvor extremely well, but this will be the first time of visiting with such a restricted diet and I have to confess that nerves have been a little greater as we plan our 10-day stay away from home.

One thing I learned early on in our holiday planning with M was to talk to our airline about taking an extra case filled with whatever medicines or foods we will need whilst we’re away and have had superb experiences with both Easyjet to Portugal and Virgin Atlantic to Florida. These conversations paved the way for our long-haul flight to the USA and we found that both the airport lounge and the airline were able to provide safe meals for M when we gave them a little advance warning, but what happens once we’ve landed abroad, especially in a country where we don’t speak a word of the native language? dictionaryOur back-up plan is our self-catering apartment, which means that there is always somewhere to prepare a simple meal of M’s safe foods without too much trouble, but I do, perhaps selfishly, want a holiday from that daily grind of cooking and be able to enjoy a family meal as we used to do when the children were small. Our previous holidays to Portugal were challenging, but not impossible as M loves fish and seafood which are always readily available, but I worried that the current restrictions might be a demand too far.

Fortunately, there are answers to the anxiety about communicating food allergy requirements in a foreign language and whilst it took a little more effort than originally planned, I got our perfect solution in the end. I started by calling Allergy UK, who offer a fantastic service of providing translation cards which “…feature an allergy alert message, an emergency message and a message for use in restaurants to ensure that your food order is free from the particular allergen that causes your reaction…” and can be ordered in any one of 36 languages to cover 70 different allergens. However, I really wanted a bespoke message detailing M’s current safe foods and unfortunately Allergy UK was not able to tailor their cards accordingly, but they did point me in the direction of the amazing Yellow Cross, a company I had never even heard about until recently.

IMG_0824[1]Thanks to a detailed e-mail conversation with Yellow Cross Director, Jane Harrison, she agreed that it would make far more sense to detail what M can eat, rather than a lengthy list of his many allergens and suggested she spoke to their translator to cost out these personalised cards. We settled on appropriate wording, it was passed to their Portuguese translator and I was quoted a very reasonable £20 for a set of 4 eating out translation cards. I confirmed that we wanted the cards, made payment and in less than a week, the finished credit card-sized cards dropped through our letter box. The cards are printed on card and then carefully laminated to extend their life, and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product. They clearly state the wording I had discussed and agreed with Jane and their service was absolutely faultless. I found Yellow Cross willing to help us with our request and I’m certain that the inclusion of these cards in our travel survival pack will ensure that our Portuguese holiday goes with a swing.

Black is the new white

When you consider M’s restricted diet, particularly the fact that rice is currently his only safe source of carbohydrate, you might find it hard to believe that there can possibly be any new products out there for us to discover. With all our exciting finds for breakfast and snack times from the Allergy show, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that was it, but I can’t wait to share these 2 new gems with you, not least because they have expanded M’s meal options even further, something for which I’m eternally grateful.

IMG_0680[1]The first is a fantastic new product that is sadly not yet available in the British market, although the company is working hard to make sure it soon will be: Gusto Nero Black Jasmine Rice pasta. This was an accidental find, but one that I’m really glad we stumbled across so late in our day at Olympia. It caught my eye as we were heading towards another stall, but I stopped to take a look as M has recently found a real love for the many varieties of rice pasta from Rizopia and I wondered if this might be another welcome addition to his meal-time options. I opted for the macaroni as I had bags of lasagne, spaghetti, penne and Fantasia lurking in the cupboard at home and variety is, after all, the spice of life. M was intrigued by the idea of a black pasta and was keen to try it almost as soon as we got back home.IMG_0684[1] I prepared a simple dish, combining the cooked pasta with some diced chicken and thin slices of cucumber, all lightly drizzled with a little rapeseed oil and topped with a sprinkling of rosemary. M savoured the very first bite and quickly devoured the rest of the bowl. The box we bought at the show has already disappeared and I’m keeping a close eye on this company waiting for the date it finally becomes readily available in the UK as I’ve no doubt we’ll become a loyal customer.

M’s marks: 9.5/10

IMG_0702[1]Our end-of-day wanderings also uncovered the second great new addition to M’s meal-times, Gallo’s riso nero or black rice. M and I were told all about the nutty flavour of this rice by their knowledgable rep and he was keen to give it a go. The success of their stand at the Allergy Show meant that they had only a very limited supply of it left by the time we reached them late Saturday afternoon, but the news that rice was M’s sole carbohydrate saw their rep very kindly giving us a microwave pouch of the Venere riso nero to take away and try.  M couldn’t wait to have a taste and was very excited once the meal was made just over a week later. The slightly different taste and texture of this rice made a welcome change to my standard offerings and M made short work of the plate I’d prepared. IMG_0705[1]I served it mixed with some small chunks of pear and drizzled with a little melted coconut oil to accompany the herby chicken pieces and slices of apples on his plate. The pack provided a good-sized serving for dinner and there was enough left-over to make a stir-fried chicken dish for both children the following evening. G seemed to enjoy the flavour of the black rice as much as M did and it will definitely be a part of our meal-times going forward.

M’s marks: 8/10

M’s happy ending

M had been anxiously counting down, fretting that the day might never come, but finally it arrived with just over a week to go until the end of term and I had left him at school that morning absolutely buzzing with excitement about everything planned for the day. It had been marked as an important day ever since his last fracture clinic appointment 3 weeks before, which you may remember showed that the break was not mending as quickly as the orthopaedic consultants would have liked and left M sporting his rather snazzy sarmiento cast for a few more weeks. IMG_0506[1]During that unexpected extra time, M had really made the effort to use his leg even more and became scarily fast and adept at using his crutches in every situation. The last week saw even more development as he more or less abandoned his crutches at home and finally started putting his full weight on his left leg. All this to ensure that that cast would well and truly be removed that afternoon and be needed no more.

Our afternoon started with a DEXA scan at the rheumatology department of our local hospital to assess M’s bone density. The severity of both this break and his previous broken arm alongside the longer than anticipated recovery time had rung a few alarm bells for his gastro team and they wanted to check that his restricted diet and years of malabsorption issues hadn’t had a detrimental effect on his bones. Although the blood tests done during his December admission at GOSH had suggested his calcium levels were fine, this additional test would give us a clear picture of his bones and hopefully put our minds at rest. I had been warned that M would need to lie still for up to 45 minutes, something I doubted would be do-able without a lot of persuasion, by which, of course, I mean bribery, but he promised to try his hardest as he realised how important it was to get these results. Fortunately, the scan itself actually took less than 10 minutes to complete and whilst M did have to lie very still, he closed his eyes and tried to relax as the bed and scanner arm twisted and turned around him to take images from all the necessary angles.

DEXA scan over, we had just enough time to walk across to the outpatients department for his fracture clinic appointment. With our timing near on perfect, it was almost straight into the x-ray suite, where M chatted away with the radiographer as if he was an old friend and went through all the motions to get the perfect set of pictures of the fracture site. From there, it was straight into clinic and minutes later into the plaster room to have his sarmiento cast removed. Ear defenders were quickly put into place before the saw was started and M’s expressive face reflected his nerves and the mild discomfort as the plaster technician cut through the cast and the vibrations disturbed his sensitive leg. The front half was removed and trimmed as M wanted to bring it home as a memento of the last 6 weeks and I flat-out refused to bring home the back half, covered as it was with layers of dirt, sweat and oodles of dead skin.

IMG_0777[1]M and I sat waiting for the orthopaedic consultant to look at his x-rays before giving us his opinion, so I tentatively peeled back the tubigrip stocking that had been the only barrier between his leg and the plaster for the last 3 months. His left leg was a little skinnier than his right, though not as much as we had feared it might be, but was also incredibly hairy, something we hadn’t anticipated at all. A little research told us that when a cast is in place for an extended period, it causes constant irritation of the skin and so the hair grows to form a protective layer between the skin and the plaster cast. It was a completely unexpected insight into what M might look like when he eventually hits those dreaded teen years and puberty – and he really wasn’t impressed! In stark contrast to his skinny, white and very hairy leg, M’s foot was almost orange in colour and as scaly as his bearded dragon thanks to 13 weeks of no washing and hot weather. I snapped a quick photo to show it to M and the entire fracture clinic must have wondered what was going on as he and I dissolved into fits of giggles as we tried to decide the best way to remove layer after layer of the dead, scaly skin. For the first time ever, M couldn’t wait to get home and jump into the bath and he stayed in it for a long time that evening in an attempt to remove both dry skin and hair.

IMG_0783[1]We were sent home with a walking boot and crutches to help ease him back into the routine of walking and exercising without his leg in a cast and within 3 weeks both had been abandoned to one side. We’ve been back for our final fracture clinic, where M was discharged with a clean bill of health and permission from the consultant to participate in as many of the activities as he wants at next week’s activity camp. Unbelievably there is no physiotherapy available for M through the NHS, but we have an excellent private physio in a nearby town and M will have a couple of sessions there to get him well on the road to recovery. He is having to learn to pace himself, something my hyperactive 10 year-old is not very good at doing, but the aching leg that results from a couple of hours running around our garden with G is a harsh reminder that his leg won’t just bounce back to where it was at the start of the year. It will take a few months to recover the strength, muscle tone and mobility that M is used to, but some hard work and focus will get him there in the end.

Most importantly, M got the happy ending he’d been hoping for since that miserable day in April. He was able to spend his last week of Year 5 back in school without crutches and even had some time back outside in the playground with his peers. And nothing will beat the absolute joy I felt as I watched him disappear from the classroom surrounded by his supportive friends on the last day of term.