BRAVE little fighter Callum Smith will go on his first ever holiday thanks to Hartlepool Mail readers.
The two-year-old, who suffers from a string of conditions, will get to enjoy a four-day break with mum Zoe Neesam, 22, and dad Luke Smith, 24.
Every penny was raised through the Callum’s Dream appeal which the Mail ran last year in conjunction with the town charity Epilepsy Outlook.
Today, grateful mum Zoe said: “This is not down to us. It is down to the Hartlepool Mail and its readers. It is down to Jacqui Gettings at Epilepsy Outlook. It is down to every person who put in money, even if was just pennies. There are not enough words to say thank you for what a difference it has made to us.”
Early next month, Zoe, Luke and Callum will head to a five-star specialist centre in Louth in Lincolnshire which is filled with activities and places to visit.
There’s an outdoor play area, a four-acre wood, swimming pool, sensory room, gym and lots more.
More than £1,000 of the money raised from the appeal is being spent on the holiday, with every penny catering for Callum’s many needs.
• A mini bus big enough to take all of his specialist medical equipment;
• Specialist nappies for Callum to go in the swimming pool;
• Specialist wipes which are needed to remove the sticky substance which is left on Callum’s skin after his canula (the tube which is inserted into his vein) is taken off;
• A first aid kit;
• Holiday clothes for Callum;
• Sun cream;
• Swimming costumes;
• The cost of the stay.
But that’s just a tiny part of Callum’s holiday luggage.
He also needs oxygen bottles, bed pads, a sats monitor, feeds, feeding pump, humidifier, sterile water, medicines and syringes.
All this has been made possible thanks to the Callum’s Dream appeal which was launched last summer. We asked our readers to help raise £5,000 so Callum could have a sensory room at his home. You succeeded and then went on to raise almost three times the initial target.
The appeal reached a fantastic £14,000 and now Callum is developing well, partly thanks to his sensory room which is filled with awe-inspiring facilities such as a globe, a moulded chair, and sensory lights.
It’s an astonishing turnaround for the little boy who spent nine months in hospital during 2013.
The courageous two-year-old takes 15 types of medication three times a day for a string of serious conditions including epilepsy, dystonia and hypertonia and needs to be fed through a tube in his stomach.
Zoe said: “This year, he has only been in hospital for seven weeks. It is such a massive difference. He has defeated the odds.
“No matter how proud we are of him, he always makes us prouder. He is learning so much.”
Her little boy can now communicate. He can point to his heart and make a sign to mummy to say “I love you.” He has learned to point to his nose, mouth and cheeks.
“He has learned to point to his mouth when he wants to tell us to be quiet,” said Zoe. “He is doing things I never thought I would see him do. He is progressing amazingly.
“Everything is coming at once. They are little things but they are massive to us.”
Callum “loves his sensory room,” said Zoe. “He is obsessed with it.”
She captured Callum on video pulling back his blankets and then pulling them up to his face again and saying “aw”. It was a sign, said Zoe, that Callum is now able to mimic his bedtime.
Last year, Callum was so poorly that he rarely got to leave hospital.
This year, he has enjoyed trips to the park, helped mummy to bake cakes and painted.
But Zoe admitted: “A holiday is something different again. This is the first time we have ever had a family holiday.
“There is a beach and I just want to take my son to feel the sand in his toes, and take him on walks.”