Two-year-old Olive, born with cerebral palsy, is enjoying her first independent steps with a unique long-term loan of a free Bugzi powered wheelchair, provided by children’s disability charity MERU.
It followed an assessment at North West Driving Assessment Service, accredited by the charity Driving Mobility.
Her father, Rhys Corkwood, a paediatric Occupational Therapist, says free provision of specialist equipment in this way is normally unheard of, with funding a massive issue in the world of disability.
The MERU Bugzi is a small, indoor powered wheelchair that can be used on any flat surface such as at home, nursery or school.
Suitable for children up to around 6 years of age, it enables a child to move around independently, play and interact with friends and family, whilst also encouraging learning about cause and effect as they use the controls.
Olive has quadrilateral or full body cerebral palsy following a complicated, premature birth.
Low tone means she is unable to sit, stand or walk unaided and lives with tightness on one side of her body. Olive also has cochlear implants to overcome deafness and her condition is affecting her speech.
Her father, Corkwood, commented: “Olive had tried a small walker but was unable to step, so my friend, a physiotherapist, recommended the Bugzi to me. I visited an event called Kidz to Adultz North with Olive to trial specialist equipment.
“North West Driving Assessment Service (NWDAS) was exhibiting alongside Driving Mobility and MERU, which provided a fantastic, hands-on opportunity to try out the Bugzi.”
The Corkwood family from Manchester applied online to MERU for a Bugzi wheelchair, which Olive’s father states was a straightforward process.
He also explained he could not fault his daughter’s assessment at North West Driving Assessment Service, part of the Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
NWDAS began offering Bugzi assessments as a new outreach service in 2019, which complements the Centre’s existing provision of driver, passenger and equipment assessments for the North West community.
Corkwood continued: “I really valued how uncomplicated this process was as life can be so busy for parents with disabled children – you feel you move from one appointment to the next. Our MERU application was handled quickly and within a month we attended NWDAS for an assessment. It was an additional bonus to have a Driving Mobility assessment centre locally in St Helens.”