22 December 2005

Brave Derry girl waits on Santa date

Belfast Telegraph

New low carb diet has seen Rhiannon make stunning progress

By Brendan McDaid
22 December 2005

**See also >>this story

AN ULSTER five-year-old with an incurable brain disease was today hoping to visit Santa in Lapland after a new diet transformed her life.

Little Rhiannon Bates's progress has stunned her parents Alan and Shauna since they introduced her to the ketogenic diet 10 weeks ago.

Her father said that his daughter had made staggering leaps forward both mentally and physically as a direct result of the high fat, low carb diet, which is similar to the Atkins diet.

"It seems to be working very, very well," Mr Bates said from his Cornshell Fields home in Derry.

"Her seizures are significantly reduced. She has not had a 'drop attack seizure' in six weeks.

"Rhiannon had been involuntarily shaking and that has reduced.

"She is also walking more and talking in short sentences rather than single words like before. She is mentally a lot brighter and alert too.

"She has a lot more energy. She is getting on very, very well and we are very happy with how things are going."

Rhiannon, who is due to undergo further tests in the New Year in a bid to establish a definitive diagnosis for her rare degenerative condition, has been busy getting herself in the festive mood this week.

A series of engagements in both Derry and Belfast have included dinner with the Rotary Club, visiting Santa at Foyleside and Northside and attending St Mary's College Christmas Carol Service.

She has also played the Virgin Mary in Foyleview Special School's Nativity play this week.

"She's leading a busy little life at the moment and has had a whole week of parties.

"She wants a rocking chair and a telephone for Christmas and she could probably do with the phone for her hectic schedule and appointments," Mr Bates said.

Rhiannon's parents are also waiting to hear back from the Make A Wish foundation to see if Rhiannon will be selected to join other kids on the trip of a life-time to meet St Nicholas at his winter retreat in Lapland.

Mr Bates said: "She has always loved snow and we don't get that much here. Rhiannon's eyesight has deteriorated and we are hopeful she will get to go there in January and meet Santa.

"We want her to see as much as she can."

If Rhiannon gets to go to the North Pole, it will be her second big globe-trotting adventure within the past few months.

In September, after an appeal highlighted by the Telegraph, family, friends and the wider Derry public made Rhiannon's dreams come true by raising over £7,000 to send her and her family to Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida.

Part of the money was also used to attend the ground- breaking Brainwave programme in England.

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