The Comber boy who wants to walk

The Comber boy who wants to walk

4 January 2012


LITTLE Billy Douglas is three years old and he would love to walk. Born with cerebral palsy which affects all four limbs, he also has spastic diplegia. Muscle stiffness is inhibiting the growth of his muscles and he cannot straighten his legs to walk like other children. However, Billy’s family hope a specialist operation in America will prevent him being in a wheelchair throughout his adult life.

The Comber family need to raise £50,000 for the relatively new selected dorsal rhizotomy surgery, which works best in young children between two and four years of age, and in just a few short months they have raised £20,000.

Billy’s mum, Savien, who has already tragically lost two children, says focusing on Billy’s campaign helps with the many difficult times.

Having passed the criteria for the operation, which has a 100 per cent success rate, she explained doctors will be able to isolate and cut the affected areas of Billy’s spinal cord.

“His legs will be able to come down to the ground and his arms will work normally,” she said. “It will also help his speech and the bowel problems he has had.”

Not aware of Billy’s condition until he was one-year old, Savien recalls the shock of finding out his diagnosis and learning he had suffered brain damage during his birth.

“We had no suggestion of it,” she said. “It was terrible. And there was no special unit for him.”

With the support of husband William and children Catherine (13) and Robert (7) she was determined, however, to do all they could to help.

“It is hard and tiring and I don’t have a big circle of family and friends,” said Savien. “You just have to get on with it. You cannot dwell on the past. In fact this has spurned me on to get over the past and carry on. In a way this has been a godsend — this is your child and this is what you have to do.”

Describing Billy as a “typical three year-old”, Savien paints a picture of a playful boy full of chatter.

“He is into everything,” she said. “He can climb, even if he can’t walk. He would eat sweets before he would potatoes. He chances his arm like the rest of them and at home he gets treated just the same.

“It is tiring. Because he can’t stretch his legs properly I can’t put him in a shopping trolley, for instance. I have to try to push the trolley at the same time. It is hard, very hard.”

Savien says she has been surprised and heartened, however, by the success of their campaign so far, which is also supported by the The Tree of Hope Children’s Charity.

“We were hoping to get £10,000 by Christmas but we ended up with £20,000,” she said. “It has been through fundraising events such as the karaoke evening in the Mirabelle in Downpatrick, who seem to be very supportive.”

Other events coming up include a Blues Night in Comber Rec on January 14, a pub quiz in the Maghera Inn on January 27 and a Garth Brooks tribute night at the Auld House, Moneyrea on January 28.

Anyone wanting to make a donation to the appeal can do so by sending a cheque to the Help Billy Walk Appeal, 11a Magheracourse Road, Comber, BT23 5RT, by donating online at, or through a paypal account, using the email address:

More information is available on the website and the campaign can also be followed on Facebook.