A little girl who beat the odds to survive will celebrate her tenth birthday in February and it’s going to be the best party ever, lasting a whole year.
Spalding Guardian readers took cerebral palsy sufferer Alice Bates to their hearts in 2011, helping her family’s appeal by donating cash for an £8,000 powered wheelchair.
The special chair gave Alice, then aged four, the ability to move around freely for the first time in her life – and that meant she could at last keep up with her brothers and sisters when they played in the local park in Long Sutton.
Soon we will ask our readers to help us again, this time by sending birthday cards for Alice to our address in The Crescent, Spalding, because Alice’s mum and dad, Charlotte and Andy, would love to see Alice receive 1,000 cards.
Alice’s birthday celebrations will focus on ten and multiples of ten as the family try to show their little girl just what an achievement it is for her to reach the milestone.
Almost every day has been a battle for Alice.
Mum, I faced my fear today, didn’t I?Alice Bates (9)
As a tiny, premature baby Alice was lucky to survive and many challenges lie ahead as she grows during her teenage years, and that’s why there will be a whole year of celebrations.
Alice was born at 29 weeks by emergency caesarian section.
Charlotte told us: “She didn’t develop normally but the doctors kept telling us she would catch up. As a mum you want to believe that but I never felt easy when I came away from an appointment. Deep down, from the beginning, I knew Alice wasn’t okay.”
Not being okay involved a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and, from the age of three, the onset of epilepsy and seizures.
Alice’s parents were also told their little girl had a brain haemorrhage as a baby but they learned only this year she had survived a second major brain injury.
Charlotte told us: “A neurologist said ‘the haemorrhage was bad enough but it’s a shame about the stroke’.”
The astounded mum didn’t believe her ears but the neurologist confirmed his diagnosis and asked Charlotte if she had ever seen Alice’s brain scans.
“He said Alice had a haemorrhage and also a massive stroke several weeks later and it was not picked up,” said Charlotte. “It has left her with tremendous health problems but it is amazing to have two major brain injuries, and not receive medical treatment for them, and still survive. It just shows you how remarkable babies are.”
Alice has never failed to amaze with her iron determination to beat physical challenges.
This summer, Alice had surgery to lengthen both hamstrings to help with her mobility.
Alice was on her feet within 12 hours, beginning rehabilitation, despite obvious pain.
Charlotte says it killed her as a mum to watch.
But Alice’s determination shone through when she said: “Mum, I faced my fear today, didn’t I?”
Alice can take a few steps when supported by two people and her family are now looking to get her a new ‘walker’ so she can enjoy a little more freedom.
Alice’s health problems have also seen her lose the ability to swallow liquids, which means she needs a tube in her tummy, and she is on a string of medications.
Despite all of her health battles, Alice remains a happy and confident girl.
Alice is a big fan of Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid and has noticed that her heroine struggles to walk on land.
“As Alice’s legs don’t work so well, she has decided she is a mermaid too and ‘mermaid’ is her own diagnosis,” said Charlotte
Alice’s tenth birthday falls on February 3.
“We will be celebrating her life all year,” said Charlotte. “We know so much more about what’s happened to her now. The fact that she’s here – she’s healthy and she’s still making great progress – it’s just unbelievable. She’s probably the healthiest she’s been for a long, long time.”
The family will share the celebrations with people who have helped Alice by holding a special party for them, but Alice’s dream party for those closest to her will have a royal touch.
“I have been given instructions it will involve little princesses,” said Charlotte. “She’s asked to go to Disneyland Paris so that’s up for discussion at the moment. It’s just a question of priorities. It could have been worse. She could have said Florida.”
Although Alice has survived against the odds from the day she was born, some of the most dangerous years of her life are just around the corner.
Charlotte says: “We don’t like to think about the future too much. We do know that, during her teenage years, growth spurts are particularly dangerous and will play havoc with her medications. Her teenage years are probably going to be the most dangerous she faces.”
For now the focus is on celebration and Alice has lots of company to join in the party planning.
As well as her mum and dad, Alice has brothers John (16) and Henry (8), and sisters Abigail (15), Emily (14) and Hannah (11).
Wanting to be able to do some things for herself – to be just a little bit independent – is one of the things that drives home-educated Alice on.
When hospital doctors asked Alice what her ambition was she replied it was “not to have a helper”.
She loves the game MovieStarPlanet, her 2DS games console and computer.
Charlotte said: “Obviously it’s something she can do completely independently. She doesn’t need help when she’s using her computer or other technology devices.”