When Emma and Andrew were told their baby had severe global brain damage after he was born, they would never have thought they would end up where they are today.
Emma Albert had a perfect pregnancy until one day just before she went on maternity leave she realised she hadn’t felt her ‘little Noodle’ kick for a while.
Things quickly took a turn for the worse when Emma arrived at hospital, and she was rushed into an emergency C-section. When Mikey was born he wasn’t breathing, and was quickly taken to the Neonatal intensive care unit.
It took five days of doctors and nurses combating his seizures, and keeping him breathing, before he was well enough to be held by his anxious parents. But the news after an MRI scan wasn’t good.
“At five days old we found out he has severe global brain damage, and they didn’t sugar coat it, we knew it was going to be hard,” Emma, 31, tells Be.
“The paediatrician explained that the damage was to his motor cortex so it was likely to result in a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.”
At this stage Emma and Andrew, 34, had no idea just how much their lives were about to change.
Emma, who had a career in hospitality, became a mum to a child with a disability requiring therapies. She became a researcher and a therapist herself. And Andrew would soon be enlisted to help make DIY toys and equipment they could use to help Mikey’s abilities improve.
“When he was really little he couldn’t play or interact with baby toys, so I made things he could play with to try and entertain him and get him moving,” Emma tells us.
And the work Emma and Andrew, from Perth, WA, put into helping Mikey develop has seen him completely defy the odds of what doctors thought would be possible for someone with his condition.
“We go for check-ups and they think wow he is really doing well and that tells me that people didn’t expect for him to get this far,” Emma says.
“We push him a lot harder than a lot of parents might push their child with a disability, and as much as I often end up in tears during therapy I know that it’s just what he needs.
“He blows people away and just does so much more than he should be able to do.”
Now two and a half years old, Mikey is able to sit unassisted by himself and can get around the house in a walker, albeit it by frog-hopping. He is learning to take steps in a harness, and while he might not be able to talk at this stage, his cheeky laugh will definitely put a smile on anyone’s face.
“He is now sitting by himself and that is something we didn’t know if he would ever do, and I still just walk past him sometimes and he is sitting and stare at him and think look how far we’ve come,” his proud mum says.
“That’s why as a community we need to see the abilities rather than the disability, because people will often prove you wrong.”
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Emma is hoping Mikey’s story of triumph will help change the way people perceive someone with a disability.
“I guess the message is to see me and my ability rather than my disability,” Emma says. “I have no issues with the word disability – my child is disabled.
“But I have an issue with how we perceive disability. People see the wheelchair and not the person. They see what a person can’t do – like walk or talk – but not the love and joy they bring to the world.”
Mikey is a perfect example, says Emma, recalling how she was shown Mikey’s brain damage in an MRI once and realised how severe it truly was.
“It goes to show – and I always tell other mums who may have received bad news – to just look at my child, according to his MRI he shouldn’t be able to do anything, but he is just defying the odds.
His parents hope to continue to give Mikey the best chance at progressing further, and eventually live a happy and independent life, and so they fundraise to be able to afford advanced therapies.
“If we didn’t fundraise we wouldn’t be able to give Mikey the opportunities that we do,” Emma says.
“The biggest end goal we have for him is to live a happy fulfilled life, however that looks.
“In or out of the wheelchair, living alone or with us. As long as he has opportunity and is happy. Whatever he does we will be proud of him.”
Emma and Andrew are hosting a Gala Ball in Perth to help raise funds for Mikey’s ongoing therapies.
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