stronger Little Sofia Guckian's dream to dance comes true after life-changing operation in the US
Sofia's parents had desperately been trying to get her he treatment she needs for cerebral palsy
Little Sofia Guckian is finally getting her chance to dance after a tough journey to the United States for life-changing surgery.
In July 2020, as the country was still getting to grips with the pandemic, Sofia and her parents were desperately trying to get her the vital operation to combat the effects of her cerebral palsy.
Fortunately, their fundraising campaign Sofia's Wish 2 Dance proved to be successful, and the surgery has made it possible for her wish to come true.
Now aged six, Sofia will be taking to the stage at The Helix next month with Gotta Dance Stage School, according to her proud dad Conor.
He explained that shortly after Sofia's story appeared in the Sunday World, the family got a date to travel to see specialist Dr TS Parks in St Louis, Missouri that October.
"It was a complete success, but it was tough going because she was bed-bound for a week. Then she had physio for the next three weeks," said Conor.
"It has been great, she still has a long way to go but she is making massive progress. All that spasticity cerebral palsy causes in her body, especially in her legs, the surgery took that away.
"Now she can walk, heels to the ground, she is doing little jumps as well. Her balance is getting stronger, and she doesn't even really use the walker any more.
"She got to use muscles that she had never used before. Because she still has cerebral palsy and will always have it, it doesn't cure it - she can build muscle, but it will be at a slower rate."
Conor and Sofia's mum Virginia "are absolutely delighted" as is Sofia's twin sister Kate. He said the speed and success of the fundraising campaign left him "absolutely flabbergasted."
"It came through family and friends, the community in Raheny, a lot of families there helped out, at work and so many people. A lot of anonymous donations as well, which was amazing to see. It was so quick and we couldn't believe the generosity, we were really taken aback," said Conor.
The success of the procedure means Sofia can keep up a little better with her twin sister Kate. While Sofia is not as fast as other kids her age, she now has a lot more mobility and as well as her dance school she is part of the All Stars GAA set up for children with special needs.
Conor said he wanted to highlight Sofia's story again to give hope to other parents going through the same thing.
He explained they were initially told in Ireland that Sofia wouldn't be suitable for the surgery known as Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR). But they made direct contact with the US clinic and got the green light.
"If someone saw the article after being told they weren't a candidate my advice would be reach out to somebody like myself or there's a Facebook group of Irish families who have gone through this.
"Even if they didn't want to have surgery they'd have a community of people who have children who have cerebral palsy, people give each other advice and information," Conor says.
He said there seems to be little encouragement from doctors in Ireland for people to go ahead with the SDR procedure despite how it has helped Sofia.
"I'd like to highlight that surgery to any parents who are thinking about it, who have read about or told they are not a candidate not to take 'no' for an answer."
Sofia had to be assessed by the US medics with videos of her movements being carefully studied before she was accepted for surgery.
Conor previously said he was "floored" by some of the before and after videos of the children who had undergone the procedure.
He also singled out Gotta Dance Stage School for praise for their inclusivity in accepting Sofia into their set-up, which has allowed her to follow her dancing dream.
"They've been great. She can dance, she can get up there and do what she can do. All of credit has to go to the dance school."
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