Thomas Wiltshire is standing and walking thanks to specialist equipment funded by generous community donations.
The birth of a baby is a time of excitement and joy, but for local Gold Coast parents Kate and Stephen, the sudden and dramatic arrival of their son Thomas in October 2014 sparked an emotional and distressing journey filled with constant worry.
Born three months early suffering a bilateral brain bleed, Thomas struggled to eat and spent the first four months of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Gold Coast University Hospital.
Kate and Stephen weren’t sure if their precious son would live, but miraculously their tiny battler survived and after 119 days in hospital, Thomas was finally able to go home with his loving parents.
The Wiltshire family were dealt another devastating blow when, at five months of age, young Thomas was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Nobody knew if Thomas would ever stand or walk by himself, but one vital piece of physiotherapy equipment gave his family hope that Thomas would one day defy the odds.
Thanks to generous community donations, Thomas was able to borrow the specialist Leckey Totstander equipment purchased by Gold Coast Hospital Foundation to practice standing every day at home.
This essential equipment provided secure support that helped Thomas stand upright and strengthen his muscles.
“It was quite amazing to see the change in Thomas’s confidence,” Kate said. “The Totstander gave him the freedom to stand and use his hands for play and occupational therapy exercises.”
Motivated by the support the Totstander gave him, Thomas persevered and was standing holding onto the family’s sofa within a couple of months.
“At first we were scared Thomas would never stand alone, so we’ve had to build up to each new milestone very slowly. It took Thomas a year before he sat up by himself and he stood for the first time on his own shortly before his second birthday,” Kate said.
“Thomas reached his biggest achievement and is walking independently. It’s incredible watching him charge around outside and play with other kids.”
The Totstander equipment significantly benefits children like Thomas living with cerebral palsy and also helps young patients suffering broken bones or other serious medical conditions to move again.
Yet specialist medical aids like this are financially out of reach for most families. With the community’s continued support, Gold Coast Hospital Foundation will be able to fund the purchase of more equipment that can be loaned to other patient’s families like Thomas’s when needed.
“Stephen and I are extremely grateful that our family could borrow the Totstander equipment for Thomas to use at home. I had to give up work, so it would have been very difficult to afford the equipment ourselves,” Kate said.
“Thomas wouldn’t be walking at all without the Totstander. The intervention from every medical team and Gold Coast Hospital Foundation has given Thomas the determination to push himself.”
Thomas’s cerebral palsy diagnosis has come with many challenges and uncertainty. On top of feeding issues, he’s experienced difficulty talking and attends regular physio, speech and occupational therapy.
“While it’s still emotionally and physically draining some days, seeing how far Thomas has come in such a short period of time brings us so much hope for Thomas’s future,” Kate said.
Thomas started eating independently in 2019 after relying on a nasogastric tube then a PEG feeding tube for the first few years of his life.
Kate said watching Thomas eat and start to talk all by himself was a testament to how far he has come.
“There were times when we didn’t know if he’d talk or we would be able to have a conversation with him. It’s been a pretty difficult thing to have been faced with,” she said.
“I waited three years for him to say Mum and now he’s speaking – it is amazing to hear him talk.”
Kate explained that although she and her husband have had to work hard to provide the best for Thomas, it has been Thomas’ determination that has really seen his leaps in development.
Now aged eight, Thomas is in Grade 3 at school and thriving in his maths class. His parents describe him as being very energetic, happy, caring and determined.
“Our family has seen first-hand the impact that fundraising has on the community. It can be updates to hospital facilities to lifesaving equipment used in the NICU when he was first born and very sick,” Kate said.
“Thomas wouldn’t be walking at all without your support.”
Please donate to Gold Coast Hospital Foundation today to help other patients and their families facing unimaginable adversity due to serious illness, injury or disability.