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  • Southside

Ella’s wish to walk

Thursday, 28th April, 2016 8:00am
Ella’s wish to walk

Ella Doyle with her sister Millie. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

Ella’s wish to walk

Ella Doyle with her sister Millie. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

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ELLA Doyle, from Rathfarnham, is not unlike most three-year-olds. With a shock of red hair, Ella has a vibrant personality. She likes to play with her friends; she likes to explore; she can horse ride and swim. 

Looking at a picture of her without the lime green walker, you’d never guess that Ella has cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development or an injury to the brain before birth. The part of the brain affected affects motor abilities. Cerebral palsy has a broad spectrum. It can cause muscle stiffness and tightness, uncontrolled movements and even learning difficulties.

Her parents Simon and Nicola noticed the way Ella held her head was atypical of her age at six-months. An assessment in the Coombe Hospital led to the diagnosis, which hit the Doyles hard. 

“We knew very little about cerebral palsy so we were devastated,” said Simon. “It’s been a steep learning curve.

“You go into a hole. You’re waiting to go in to Enable Ireland and there’s quite a time lag.”

The couple commended the services of Enable Ireland for providing Ella with physiotherapy and occupational therapy and helping them cope emotionally.

Ella has spastic diplegia, which only affects her walking. She falls in the lower end of the palsy spectrum but will eventually require a wheelchair.

“She’s reaching all her learning milestones,” said Nicola. “We’re lucky with her personality because she’s so determined.”

However, Ella has started to become aware of her condition.

“She notices that other children aren’t in a walker,” Nicola explained. “Sometimes she goes into a room full of kids and stands back to see if she can keep up.”

The Doyles have launched the ‘Ella’s Wish to Walk’ campaign. They’ve set up a website (, a Facebook page and a YouTube channel.

They have organised events such as a mountain trek, a collection at the Galway Races and golfing at Druids’ Glen.

Ella’s Wish to Walk needs to raise €150,000 for selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery, post-operative care and equipment to help her walk.

The surgery involves cutting nerves that cause muscles to tighten. The neuro-surgeon will separate nerve roots in the spinal cord, stimulate them electrically to see their response, and identify the ones which cause spasticity.

The surgery will take place in St Louis, Missouri, under the reputable Dr TS Park. He has performed over 3,000 SDR surgeries with a high success rate.

The Doyles are confident they will meet their financial target. They’ve set up a trust to fundraise with appointed committee members and will not have access to the money.

“Transparency is important,” added Simon. 

They draw hope from the story of another little Southside child. Laura Herangi’s five-year-old son, Luke, travelled to Missouri last year. With the help of the Ballybrack community, the Herangis were able to raise the money in 10 weeks.

“It’s improved his confidence so much,” said Laura.

“Everything has improved. His posture is better and he has balance for the first time.”

She said the Doyles should be positive.

“Embrace the kindness of strangers,” she advised. “It’s hard to put your family out there, but people will overwhelm you with support.”

For further information, visit

Aura McMenamin

Ella Doyle (left) pictured with her parents Simon and Nicola and sister Millie. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

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