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“I wish to have a baby doll”
7 years old, St Helens
Andrew spent the first two weeks of his life in hospital after being born with spina bifida. He has a lot to deal with in his life and must do more than most to take care of himself, yet he loves caring for others. When his mum asked him what he would like if he could have anything, he said that he wanted to be a dad! So we got to work making his wish a reality.
Andrew, seven, from St Helens is a quirky boy who loves to perform. He shows off his talent on his YouTube channel where he’s adopted an American accent from all the shows he watches. Even before he could walk, he would jiggle on his knees to the likes of Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars. According to his mum, Louise: “He’s definitely going to be a performer.”
However, doctors warned his family that Andrew would never be able to walk. As her baby wasn’t moving in her womb, Louise had a scan at five months, which showed that her son had spina bifida – a condition that affects about 700 babies a year in the UK.
“I burst into tears and knew it meant something wasn’t right. I was scared,” said Louise.
When Andrew was born his legs were limp and lacked full mobility, so he was taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where his family lived for the first two weeks of his life.
Louise recalls: “It was hard. Andrew’s dad had to go back and forth, and his brother wanted to see us, so we got a Ronald McDonald room at the hospital.”
Later, Andrew was diagnosed with autism when he started school, which greatly affects him socially as he finds it hard to regulate his emotions. In addition, Andrew struggles in PE and in the playground when his body won’t let him do something he wants to do and his catheter has caused some troubling accidents at school.
Louise shared: “Loud noises and certain smells trigger him. Andrew does walk but does have a wheelchair for when his legs get painful, which causes him a lot of upset; he can’t cope with long travel and activities as they cause meltdowns from being in pain and tired.”
Andrew’s condition affects the lives of the whole family and means they’ve had to adjust practically and emotionally to accommodate his needs.
"It was also hard on Andrew’s older brother because he was not used to it. To have a new brother – frightening in itself – and to have so much attention given to Andrew was unexpected. He has had issues with accepting and dealing with the changes. It was a hard learning for all of us."
Originally Andrew wanted to go on holiday on an aeroplane but Covid restrictions meant that this wasn’t possible. But shortly after, Andrew started saying he wanted to be a daddy and loved it when his mum bought him a doll to play with – but if you ask Andrew they are most certainly ‘babies’ not dolls!
One day he took a liking to a doll he saw online and said: “I wish I could have that!”
“It was like a lightbulb the way he said, ‘I wish for that,’ so I thought I would ask Make-A-Wish,” Louise told us.
Andrew’s Wishgranter, Debbie, arranged not for one, but two twin dolls to be delivered to him along with a twin buggy, Moses baskets, matching sets of outfits and changing mats. She also sent him balloons to make his wish extra special for Andrew.
Louise said: “I would tell him when Make-A-Wish had messaged me and he thought it was a fairy granting the wish. He would ask if the fairy had replied. He was upstairs when it all arrived, so we shouted him down, covered his eyes and the photos show his reaction: his face just kept lighting up.”
The impact of Andrew's wish
Louise shared Andrew’s delight with his new company: “He feeds the dolls before and after school and changes them at night. He was made up when he put them in the buggy to see nanny and asked if she wanted to hold them. He’s dead careful with them and gently lays them on the bed.
“I will play with him and show him how to do things like dress them. He learns how to do it by copying what I do. I will even play a baby crying sound effect and he rocks them and sings to them for comfort."
"Even though Andrew is already caring, the wish has shown it so much deeper. It’s shown the type of adult he is growing to be and it’s bringing me and him closer too. This is the first thing that we can do together as he doesn’t understand how to play games. This is something where he can just be himself."
“The autism delays his development, so it’s great to see that growth and responsibility. As soon as he went to school after his wish, he told his teachers about the dolls.
“Children like Andrew have gone through so much, so to have something as their own means the world and can bring out more of the child. I have seen things from Andrew I never thought I would anytime soon. It changes them in a positive, loving and exciting way. That is special and needed.”
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