'It's been the biggest gift of all - thank you for changing my daughter's life:' Meet the baby who can learn to move freely thanks to community generosity
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Scarlett Steeden-Smith, of Chapel Road, South Shore, did not have the easiest start in life.
The one-year-old was diagnosed with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome in utero, which meant her twin sister Beatrix was receiving more essential nutrients for their growth than she was.
After being diagnosed with the syndrome at 17 weeks pregnant, Scarlett's mum and dad Amy, 34, and Paul, 38, were told their beautiful daughters may not survive.
She was transferred to Birmingham Women's Unit, where she underwent placenta surgery known as intrauterine laser ablation.
The surgery sealed off some of the blood vessels in the placenta, to allow both babies to receive a more equal supply of blood.
The surgery was successful, and against all odds, both Scarlett and Beatrix were born on October 11, 2019 at 31 weeks.
However, the difficult journey did not end there for little Scarlett.
Before her birth, she suffered extensive damage to her kidneys, bowel and brain as a result of oxygen depletion, later undergoing bowel surgery.
Scarlett also developed the neurological conditions Porencephaly and Periventricular Leukomalacia.
A cyst formed on Scarlett's brain, affecting her mobility and preventing her from reaching the usual milestones met during a baby's first stages of life as timely as others.
She has problems with stiffness in her muscles, struggling to move her stomach off the floor to move into a crawling position, and has only recently been able to sit independently.
As well as chronic kidney disease, her right limbs suffer with severely restricted movement, resulting in her learning to roll over months later than is expected of a child her age.
But after visiting a special clinic in New Brighton, Liverpool once a week, mum Amy discovered that sessions on a Galileo vibration plate helped to improve Scarlett's muscle tone so significantly that "she was like a different child."
The journey from Blackpool to Liverpool to use the Galileo plate was not always straight forward for parents Amy and Paul, who still had to care for twin sister Beatrix.
The long journeys were exhausting, time-consuming and financially costly for the family, and the benefits of using the Galileo plate would only reach their full potential with continuous use.
But Scarlett's childminder Lynn Taylor, 45, from Cleveleys, came to the family's rescue, raising the £4,700 needed for them to own their own Galileo plate with a sponsored toddle.
The plate, which is unavailable for purchase in the UK, was shipped from Germany last week - and now the Steeden-Smith family can celebrate their little girl learning to move freely in their own home.
After raising the money for Scarlett, Lynn said: "It was the most amazing thing to watch the total on the Just Giving page go up and up with donations for our toddle for Scarlett, along with a mystery benefactor who kindly made a donation of £2,500. The moment I realised we had reached our target was absolutely amazing.
"We are so looking forward to watching her progress using the Galileo machine, and hopefully be able to stand and play with the other children.
"When we completely smashed our target it was beyond our wildest dreams, it was so emotional."
Amy, a health visitor at South Shore Primary Care Centre, explained how she felt she owed Lynn, and members of the community who donated, a heartfelt thanks for "changing her daughter's life."
"It's been the most incredible community effort, and we are so lucky to have such a one-in-a-million childminder like Lynn who did this for her," Amy said.
"We take Scarlett to different therapies to try to help with her movement. She goes to the Rainbow Hub near Ormskirk for conductive education.
"That's where we heard about the Galileo machine, they told me they thought she'd be a good candidate for the treatment. I'd never heard of it before.
"The nearest clinic to us was in Liverpool, so we began taking her once a week on top of her occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
"The difference in her after using the machine was amazing, she was like a totally different child.
"But we couldn't take her sister Beatrix with us, and the combination of travelling and the therapy took a whole day, so we felt split between them.
"Although it helped her massively to loosen her muscles using the machine, throughout the week she would gradually get tenser again.
"Now we have our own machine at home, I've seen such a difference in her. It's the biggest gift of all and Christmas has come early for us this year.
"No mother wants to see their child in discomfort."
Now that Scarlett has her own machine to use at home, her mobility is improving, her confidence is growing, and the financial and time-consuming burden of weekly travel to Liverpool has been alleviated.
Amy and Paul only need to take part in Zoom consultations going forward, with a visit every 4-6 weeks to review her treatment programme.
Amy continued: "The Galileo plate is a continuous treatment, Scarlett needs to use it every day to get stronger.
"She is already sitting independently for much longer, up to 50 seconds now. She won't just use it as a child either, it will support her through her adult life too.
"I can see her confidence growing every day, and we're so lucky to have been able to get a Galileo plate for our home.
"We have so much to thank the community for, we can't believe so many people donated money for us.
"It's really changed her life."
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