Freedom Fighter

A Sparky mobility device has given young Zeedan the gift of movement and so much more, freeing him from the restrictions of his rare diagnosis. Zeedan was born a happy and healthy child, but at just six months old he suffered an episode that would drastically alter the course of his life.

It started as an ordinary day. "Zeedy was happily jumping in his jolly jumper," Tracy explains. "I took him out and laid him on the floor to watch TV with his brothers. After about 15 minutes he started to cry so I picked him up, but when I picked him up I realised that his arms and trunk were limp." Terrified, Tracy rushed him to the local children's hospital, Princess Margaret (PMH).

"By the time we got to PMH Zeedy had lost the movement in his legs, and by midnight he could no longer breathe on his own. He was on life support in hospital for six months," Tracy says. Zeedan was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis – a rare disease that causes inflammation around the spinal cord, often damaging important spinal nerves and connective tissue. It has left him a complete quadriplegic.

Zeedan's family was preparing to bring him home to live on a ventilator. But he proved to be true a fighter, and learned to breathe on his own again. "Zeedy's fighting spirit has surprised everyone," Tracy says. "He continues to work hard at strengthening his muscles though rehab, acupuncture and exercises at home." But he still relies heavily on others to help him move around and participate with other kids, which is understandably frustrating for a growing child eager to run, jump and play with his brothers.

All this has changed, thanks to a customised Sparky ‘wheelchair’ funded by the generous women who attended ToyBox’s Ladies Lunch at Nolita. As Zeedan has restricted mobility in his arms, his customised Sparky allows him to control its movement using his chin. Already, Tracy says the chair has made a big difference to Zeedan's quality of life, particularly because he can now make choices on his own about where and when he moves around. "It means the world to finally be able to see Zeedy doing what [he] wants by himself, without having to wait for someone to help him," Tracy says. "He is finally able to join in and play with his brothers."

Troy Barbagallo