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€8000 walker donated by The Smile Foundation

The first time six year-old Elena walked to chase after a ball, the world stopped for her mother Silvia.

She had experienced similar feelings, but for very different reasons, some six years earlier when, after a premature birth, doctors told her that Elena had cerebral palsy and psychomotor development issues, and that she may never walk.

“It’s easier to go downhill,” says the little girl today, as she takes careful steps along the small channel of water that runs through the family’s garden while safely discovering a whole new world of mobility, thanks to a specially designed walker given to her by The Smile Foundation charity.

When Elena speaks, it requires careful listening to understand what she says, as her illness makes it sound as if she is slowly and carefully choosing her words. Yet, her huge smile is warm and friendly, just like her mother’s, and Sylvia is one of those remarkable women of courage who one day, while watching a TV programme about how other small children were being helped with the same problem, decided that the time for regrets was over and started to take action.

Ever since Elena was born, and even after her own divorce, Sylvia has done everything to face up to her daughter’s illness and her whole purpose in life has been about raising Elena through sheer hard work, dedication and perseverance. The Smile Foundation, founded by CLC World Resorts & Hotels, recognised all of Sylvia’s amazing efforts and recently provided the last, vital piece of help that Elena needed to be able to link one step with the next and, ultimately, to walk.

Day to day life for Silvia and Elena is so intense that, at only six years old, the little girl needs to follow a schedule that impacts every day upon her mother’s time and energy. Sylvia has, in effect, left her own life behind so as to build another for Elena. As Sylvia says, “We must stimulate both her mind and her muscles.”

The more her body and mind are encouraged to work together, the sooner Elena’s quality of life can be expected to improve. Consequently, hers is a non-stop weekly routine that includes maxillo-facial, speech and hydrotherapy massage sessions on Mondays; physiotherapy sessions every Tuesday, followed by more physiotherapy and speech therapy on Wednesdays. Thursdays see another trip to the physiotherapist followed by the ‘fun’ session of equine therapy, with the horses Elena loves, and then the busy week finishes on Friday with yet more physiotherapy and the week’s final visit to the speech therapist.AJG_9474 (Large)

It all adds up to a life dedicated to Elena’s future welfare, but the extensive treatment programme is expensive and requires financial support, so Silvia has opened a special bank account where donations will be gratefully accepted: 0049 5009 01 2195073321 (Banco Santander).

Fortunately, amid all this weekly activity, there is still time for one hour’s walking a day, four times a week, with the help of the orthopaedic walker donated by The Smile Foundation. “We have only had the walker a month and the development of the muscles in Elena’s legs is already very noticeable,” said Silvia.

The walker works like an external skeleton that helps Elena by clamping to her body with each step, enabling her to walk independently. It also helps to balance her internal organs, improving the benefits for her digestive system, and allows her to exercise her back and neck as it only comes up to her chest, which means she has to support herself to stay upright.

Before she had the walker, Elena had difficulty just keeping her head up. Now she can easily look you in the eye and, time and again, gives you a giant-size smile.What’s more, she now has the means to exercise her arms and legs, all the time strengthening her young muscles, while cognitively, she is also thriving as her mind explores the world around her.

“The photos that you’re taking I’m going to show to my friend Susan,” said Elena to our photographer, with pride in her eyes.Sheis now happily preparing her body with dreams that, one day in the not too distant future, she will be able to walk without the help of her new walker.

Although most of what has happened is down to her own dogged effort and determination and the help of her parents, Silvia, like any mother, is eternally grateful. “It’s very important to me that people know how much I owe to The Smile Foundation. On behalf of my daughter and my whole family, I want to thank them for the gift of this walker. Seeing my little girl walk is a dream come true for me and has given her a much better quality of life,” she says excitedly.

Mother and daughter will continue walking together in hope, as each new step contributes to life-changing development for Elena.

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