“I’d give anything just to see my little girl run around or dance with her friends,” says the mother of five-year-old Susanna Petersburska. “I just want to give her the best life possible.”
Susanna has a debilitating condition called cerebral palsy. Born 10 weeks early and by Caesarean section, she was a tiny, frail baby weighing just 1450 grams. At first, doctors dismissed her parent’s anxieties that she wasn’t trying to walk. But when Susanna reached 20 months, the Petersburskas’ worst fears were confirmed – their beautiful child had spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.
Palsy’s pernicious grip
Susanna’s legs have never been strong enough to support her weight. So today she can only get around with the help of a standing frame. To reduce the muscle tension in her legs she receives regular Botox injections. She also needs to practise her posture daily – despite the intense pain.
Twice a week, brave Susanna attends the Stick ‘n’ Step centre in the Wirral, where she pushes the boundaries of her disability through play and learning life skills. And a physiotherapist visits once a week. But for a little girl who wants nothing in the world more than to walk, none of this is enough.
Hope from across the Atlantic
There has been a ray of hope, though. In 2011, Susanna’s parents learned of pioneering surgery that could transform their daughter’s life chances. Uniquely, the world-leading St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, USA, offers a procedure to alleviate the excessive muscle tone associated with cerebral palsy. At last, the possibility that Susanna could one day walk.
However, the treatment – Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy or SDR – is not cheap. And up to two years of aftercare also needs funding. For their dream to come true, Susanna and her family would have to raise around £60,000.
there’s a will…
But they’re determined to do it. Susanna’s mother, Monika, says: “Without the treatment, Susanna will be a full-time wheelchair user and miss out on all those things she’s desperate to do.”
In November 2011, the Help Susanna Walk Appeal launched with a front-page feature in the local St Helens Reporter. Since then, thousands of pounds have been raised. Susanna’s father, Andrzej, says: “We’re so grateful to everyone who’s donated so far. Every day there’s something new and it’s given us hope that we can reach our fundraising target.”
In spring 2012, a single special event drummed up almost £2,500 towards the family’s quest. Out of the blue, Philomena Denton, who’d never before met the Petersburskas, contacted Caudwell Children – the charity supporting their efforts – and offered to stage a special fundraiser at Eccleston Social Club.
And what a night it was. From the stage, clairvoyants and mediums demonstrated their mysterious arts to a 170-strong audience, many of whom received private readings too.
Philomena, who’d heard about Susanna’s plight through a friend, says: “I was amazed at people’s generosity. Everybody had a great time and it was a pleasure to meet the family in person.”
Susanna’s dream come true
Susanna’s quest continues to touch hearts. So please help. Each pound you can give is one small step towards fulfilling a child’s lifelong dream to walk.