|MISSION 476 - HAY / BANKSTOWN / HAY|
|COLEAMBALLY FARMER PUTS ON ANGEL WINGS TO HELP YOUNG HAY MOTHER AND HER CHILD
On Sunday 21st August, life was made a little easier for young Hay mother, Melissa Harris  and her nineteen-month-old son Blake, when they boarded an “Angel flight to Sydney.
Born with a condition known as ‘Clubfoot” Blake made the long journey with his mother in the hope that something more could be done to help correct the deformity which affects both his feet.
[Blake’s feet point downwards and inwards, an example of which is shown in the photo from Clubfoot.co.uk. The majority of clubfeet result from abnormal development of the muscles, tendons and bones while the baby is forming in the uterus.]
“I must admit I was quite shocked when Blake was born to discover that he had Clubfoot, with both of his feet being affected,” Melissa said.
“Ultrasounds before he was born didn’t pick it up and I can’t really explain how I felt. I know I was disappointed but he’s my boy and I love him to death.”
In an effort to correct the condition, Melissa said that both his legs were put in plaster and for the first five months of his life they had to travel to Albury once a fortnight for treatment. As a single parent with limited resources, Melissa depended on friends to take her on the long and tiring four-hour journey.
Unfortunately this initial treatment has failed to correct the deformity, which is now causing him considerable frustration as he tries to walk.
“Blake is a very active little boy and if I hold both of his hands he will walk on the side of his feet, but he naturally wants to do it himself,” Melissa said, obviously feeling the same frustration as she watches her son struggling to walk.
“Blake is going through a stage of clinging to me and has become a real Mummy’s boy. For the last few weeks he has been whingeing a lot and his sleep patterns are out of whack. I must admit I’m getting very tired and feel that I’m close to having a nervous breakdown.”
For such a young mother with only friends for support, Melissa is obviously feeling the effects of sleep deprivation and caring for a disabled child on her own with limited finances. On top of that, she doesn’t know what to expect from her appointment with medical specialists at the Royal Far West on Monday.
“I’ve been preparing myself for the news that maybe it’s too late for anything to be done for Blake. I understand that he may need to have surgery, and I’ve been getting really stressed worrying about him,” she said tearfully.
“But now that Angel Flight is flying us there and we don’t have to take the long trip to Sydney by road, I won’t be as stressed when I get there and hopefully they will be able to sort things out for Blake. I think Angel Flight is brilliant. I don’t know what else to say as it’s all a bit overwhelming. They are giving me support when I need it most. Otherwise I think I’d just lose it.”
And helping people who are unable to help themselves is exactly why Coleambally based Angel Flight pilot, Steve Burgess, has volunteered to fly Melissa and her son to Sydney free of charge.
“It’s good to be able to give back something to people who are financially and emotionally troubled,” Steve said.
“As a parent of healthy children I try and put myself in the place of parents who aren’t so fortunate and especially those with sick children who aren’t well off financially and think how difficult it must be for them. It makes me feel good being able to offer them something.”
For Steve, this will be his second Angel Flight mission, the first of which he undertook earlier this year when he flew a five-year-old girl and her mother to Sydney for the young child to receive specialist help.
“It was very fulfilling to be able to help them and I’m looking forward to doing something similar for Blake and his mother,” Steve said.
“I was fascinated with flying as a very small boy and just loved the concept of flight. Now I have my own plane and think it’s great that I’m in a position to use it to help people who can’t help themselves and I feel fantastic about it.”
This mission appeared as an article in the Wednesday August 24th 2005 issue of The Riverine Grazier.
Angel flight 1 by Steven Burgess
Angel flight 2 by Rod McLeod