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Feeling The Love -- from both sides of the Atlantic
Megan Sadler loves gymnastics, but a debilitating curvature of the spine means
she has to wear a brace 23 hours a day. Life-changing surgery in America is an
option, and it’s thanks to the power of Rotary on both sides of the Atlantic
that Megan’s dream is going to be fulfilled.
appropriate, after arriving back in Wales from America following the first
stage of potentially life-changing medical treatment, that the daffodils were
blooming in the Spring sunshine for tiny Megan Sadler.
is the daffodil a Welsh emblem, but the flower also symbolises new beginnings.
10-year-old Megan from Milford Haven suffers from severe scoliosis, a curvature
of the spine, which means she has to permanently wear a restrictive body brace.
no treatment available in the UK which would enable the promising gymnast to
realise her potential. However, the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia is
pioneering an innovative surgical procedure called vertebral body tethering
which allows the spine to correct as Megan grows.
is running out with a very narrow window of opportunity available. In Megan’s
case, her spine is at a 60 degree curve. Once it goes past 70 degrees, she can
no longer get an operation to correct it.
“Life is very difficult,” admitted
Megan. “I don’t like my brace, especially when it is tight. It’s uncomfortable.
I love gymnastics. I’d like to be able to do a back handspring, but it’s hard
at the moment. I want to do competitions and win medals, and one day I would
like to be a gym coach.”
February, Megan, with her mother Laura, and sisters Kaci, 8, and Isabella, 4,
made the 3,000-mile journey to Philadelphia for five hours of tests to discover
whether surgery will be possible.
result, the petite youngster will be heading to the States again in May for up
to a month when she undergoes major surgery.
has offered to perform the operation and treatment free of charge, but there
are still major costs for the family to find – to pay for flights and
accommodation. Megan’s sister has autism and with a four-year-old to look after
as well, this is a challenging time for the family.
surgery goes well, it will change Megan’s quality of life completely,”
explained mum, Laura. “It means that she will only have to wear a brace at
night rather than for 23 hours a day. It will give her some normality for a few
years as she grows.”
It is a
cause which has brought the Rotary family together, with Rotarians on both
sides of the Atlantic working together to help the Sadler family.
Rotary Club of Milford Haven was alerted to the family’s plight by the Inner
Wheel club which had begun fundraising.
sprang into action, initially raising £1,000 in a special concert, further
boosted by a concerted fundraising effort from both Rotarians and members of
Inner Wheel in Pembrokeshire. Megan’s story then began to gain support through
social media posts and links to the fundraising website.
£7,000 was raised to help Megan’s family, including £1,500 from the Milford
Haven Gymnastics Club where Megan is a member.
before they travelled to Philadelphia in February for tests to discover whether
Megan would be receptive to surgery, Southern Wales District Governor, Steve
Jenkins, contacted Dave Haradon, his opposite number in District 7450 in
Philadelphia, to ask whether Rotarians there could wrap an arm around the
family when they arrived.
Sadler family arrived at Philadelphia International Airport back in February,
tired and jet-lagged and wondering about how they were going to get a taxi to
the hotel, 30 Rotarians waited at the airport with Welsh and Union flags and
welcome signs, carrying a myriad of practical gifts including food, toys plus
an iPhone with $200 credit.
Philadelphia Rotarians organised transport from and to the airport and to the
hospital for their consultation, helping bring down some of the transport
so overwhelming, they were absolute brilliant,” said Laura.
couldn’t thank the Rotarians enough because they did everything possible to
take care of us. It was lovely.”
thoughts are turning to May, and a possible month-long stay in Philadelphia.
operation, scheduled for May 22nd, is expected to last eight hours when Megan’s
lungs will be deflated and some ribs removed as surgeons work on the
excited about the operation,” said Megan. “The tests were a bit scary and I
didn’t like having to breathe into a machine.
want to go to America because I want to get my life back.”
revealed that they have set themselves a fund-raising target of £20,000, which
will not only fund this trip and future follow-up visits, but so that they
might be able to make a donation to the Shriners Hospital.
Wales District 1150 is now working on more fund-raising initiatives for Megan
and District 7450 are preparing for the family’s next visit to Philadelphia in
President for Great Britain and Ireland, Eve Conway, wished Megan well with her
added: “This is a wonderful example of how Rotarians go the extra mile to make a
difference across the world helping Megan and her family, with co-operation and
support from Rotarians at home and in the United States.
Jenkins, said that the inspiring story of Megan and her family demonstrated how
quickly and effectively Rotary can act.
“Megan’s story has proved that distance is no longer a barrier to Rotarians
working together in order to overcome a need in our communities – in this case
helping a family in need and to give Megan the chance to live her dream.
“We must continue
to use social media and new forms of communication positively and effectively.
Together we are stronger.”
the April/May 2017 issue of Rotary in Britain and Ireland Magazine
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