An exceptionally brave Derry schoolgirl is to be recognised in the National Children of Courage Awards - which will see her and her family travel to a gala ball in Limerick to be presented with her award by RTE’s Miriam O’Callaghan.
Aoibh Cutliffe, who is five and a half years-old, was nominated for a National Child of Courage Award by her auntie and her mother Brid said she was “over the moon” to learn that she had made it to the last eight in the competition which has earned her a holiday to Eurodisney.
Brid said her daughter was exceptionally deserving of the prize, explaining that she was a “real wee hero” to her mammy, daddy and four sisters.
Brid was 23 weeks pregnant when she received the devastating news that all was not well with her baby. “We went to the scan full of excitement. Aoibh was our first baby and very much planned and wanted,” Brid explained.
However at the scan Brid and her husband Paul were told that the sonographer could not see a brain in their baby. “She had so much fluid in her head that they could not see a brain. They did not know if she had a brain.”
With the diagnosis of hydrocephalus, Brid and Paul faced a wait until their baby was born to see if she would survive.
Delivered by C-section in Belfast, the Cutliffes were told once Aoibh was born that it looked as if she had indeed been born without a brain. Only an MRI showed that she did have brain matter and was a suitable candidate for a shunt.
Aoibh has gone on to defy doctors sincer her birth. “We were told she was brain damaged and that she ould not do a lot of things that other children would be able to do. We were told she might not sit up or talk, but she has. She might do it slower than other children but she does it; she gets there.”
On top of her hydrocephalus Aoibh was diagnosed with epilepsy when she just nine months-old. At one stage she was taking as many as 20 fits in a day, but this is now down to between five and ten each day.
She thrives among the company of her three sisters, at school in Foyleview which, Brid describes as “the best school in Derry” and shows a desire to be independent.
“She is my hero,” Brid told the ‘Journal’ proudly.