'Little dancer' Little Katie Flynn is declared a 'miracle' by docs beating the medical odds
Family's thanks to Make-A-Wish for dream Disneyland trip
The family of a little girl who were told she'd never be able to walk or talk have told of their joy at how she has confounded medical expectations.
Little Kate Flynn, from Cobh in Co Cork, was born with a genetic deletion so rare that it had not been recorded anywhere in the world before.
The unique condition means that the part of her brain that controls her breathing does not work.
Despite this and other issues, Kate continues to thrive, much to the delight of her family and medical team.
"Doctors told us she would never walk, never talk, never eat or drink and now she is doing all of those things," said mum Lisa. "It's amazing how far she has come. To the doctors she's like their miracle.
"They are all amazed and delighted at how she has surpassed their expectations. It's a testament to how far she's come given how medically vulnerable she was as a baby."
Now the family is backing a Disney campaign for Make-A-Wish to raise funding for the charity, which makes life-changing wishes come true for children facing serious illness.
The Walt Disney Company has partnered with Make-A-Wish for 40 years, and this year Love is a Compass, a single from UK artist Griff, is benefiting the charity.
The single, which features in Disney's new Christmas advert, is on download, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to the charity. A vintage Mickey Mouse soft toy featured in the ad will also benefit the charity.
Kate, her big brothers Alex and Adam and parents Lisa and Mark, know first-hand how the charity can help families. Lisa said a trip to Disneyland Paris in 2018 transformed their lives.
"It was an absolutely life-changing event for us all. It brought us so much joy and still two years later the children talk about it all the time. It's so important for families to have opportunities to make special memories. They're just amazing people," said Lisa.
"The highlight was absolutely lunch with the princesses. Make-A-Wish had arranged for us to have a sitting there and it was absolutely amazing. Kate got to meet her favourite characters like Snow White and Aurora. They spent so much time with her and she couldn't believe she was meeting the princesses.
"Kate had never flown because an awful lot of equipment has to go with her. Cork Airport's service manager was just outstanding. We had to ensure that Kate would be safe while we were travelling. We could not have done it without them."
The seven-year-old was born in CUH in Cork, but was transferred to hospital in Crumlin less than 24 hours later with breathing difficulties.
"She spent the first two months in ICU," said her mum. "She had numerous tests which found that Kate has a genetic deletion that had not been recorded anywhere in the world before.
"How this affects Kate is the part of her brain that controls breathing does not work. When Kate goes to sleep her brain does not tell her body to breathe.
"She had a tracheostomy which is a breathing tube in her neck. When Kate goes to sleep it is connected to a ventilator. Kate only came home to us in Cobh two weeks before her second birthday. It was a very difficult time."
Kate, who also has difficulties with her concentration and vision, has confounded early expectations and despite fears she would never walk, her family has discovered she is quite the dancing queen.
"She's a very bubbly person - she loves dancing ballet, hip-hop, tap and freestyle and attends the ELJ Dance Academy," said Lisa. "She was physically very delayed - she started dancing to supplement her physiotherapy and then we discovered how much she loved it.
"Kate had a lockdown Zoom dance party this year because she couldn't have a birthday party so she did that with her dance friends who were in their own homes."
Kate is now in first class at school and has a nurse as well as an SNA teacher with her. Her family says that while she does need a lot of support, she is making good progress.
Like many families of people who are vulnerable and have extra needs, the Flynn family has found this year extremely challenging. "It's been a worrying time for us. During lockdown one we were cocooning. The only time I went out was once a week to the supermarket. An absolute worry was what would happen if Mark or I got unwell? Because one of us would have to be there to provide her care at all times. Her care needs are so great.
"Through this lockdown Kate has really missed her dancing. As a carer also I've found it very isolating."
Now the family is hopeful that when Covid restrictions end, other families will have the opportunity to make happy memories thanks to charities like Make-A-Wish.
"It's so important. Every euro will go towards bringing happiness to a family that needs it."
Susan Dwyer, chief executive of Make-A-Wish Ireland, said: "Our 40-year partnership with Disney has already helped grant so many wishes for children across the world and we're really excited to be part of their Christmas campaign 'From Our Family To Yours'."
- For more information about Disney's Christmas campaign in support of Make-A-Wish, visit thewaltdisneycompany.eu/fromourfamilytoyours/
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