15 December 2005

Christmas comes early for our Ryan


by Damian McCarney

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Seven-year-old Ryan Shannon is thrilled with his best-ever Christmas present – a wheelchair bought for him by the West Belfast community.

“This is his big, big Christmas present,” beamed his mother, Teresa Shannon. “Everyone who donated money made a wee boy’s wish come true.”

After an appeal to raise £10,000 for a special ‘Permobile Koala’ wheelchair for the Poleglass boy who suffers from brittle bone disease, local residents, clubs and businesses put their hands deep in their pockets.

Such was their generosity that they exceeded the target figure by almost £3,000.

Ryan is a lively and outgoing child who smiles and chats continuously with his two-year-old sister, Natasha, who seems a little bemused by all the attention he is getting.

Spinning around the festively decorated living room in Springbank, Ryan has already mastered the complex controls of the wheelchair in the few days since it was delivered.

Suffering from the debilitating brittle bone disease since birth, Ryan has endured 49 fractures to his frail bones, mostly caused by innocuous activities, such as turning around. The first time that he crawled as a baby, he fractured his leg.

“He can now move from the chair to the settee, which he couldn’t do in the old chair. I had to lift him down on to the ground first. With the chair he will also be able use the bathroom when it is adapted. He will be able to use the shower, and a new sink so he can wash his hands and brush his teeth on his own,” said Teresa.

Due to the nature of Ryan’s condition he will be dependent on wheelchairs for his entire life.

“He is learning to walk in school with the use of a standing frame. They think that it may a year or two before he makes progress. He will only be able to walk a couple of feet at a time before he needs to take a rest.”

The wheelchair can be adapted to allow for a bigger seat when Ryan requires it, so Teresa is confident that he will not require a new one until he becomes a teenager.

In the meantime she has opened a trust fund to ensure that there is adequate money to pay for any repairs that might be necessary.

The Andersonstown News campaign has made Ryan something of a celebrity in the locality.

“Every shop I went into there was a box with his photo on it. When we are out, we overhear people saying, ‘That’s the wee boy in the Andersonstown News’.”

Teresa is bowled over by the community’s response to the appeal. “I was overwhelmed by the response. It has been fantastic, absolutely brilliant.

“Uncle Tony [Keenan] arranged a night in the Green Hut social club in Turf Lodge after a charity football match and they raised between £3,000 and £4,000 on that night. The West held a charity night and raised about £4,000. Citybus donated £1,000 and a local man, Paul Magel, ran a marathon and raised about £2,000. Twinbrook Social Club raised £1,400 and the West Belfast Taxi Association raised about £600.

“I can’t give all the names but I’d like to thank everyone who donated. I just can’t believe how generous everyone has been. And Ryan wants to say a big thank you too.”

Journalist:: Damien McCarney

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