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Breanaa’s customised chair for quality of life

Thursday 27 April 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, Go Local

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Breanaa’s customised chair for quality of life
Breanaa Goldsworthy’s new customised wheelchair. From left: Gavin and Kelly (Physiotherapist) Reynolds, Breanaa’s grandmother Metua Goldsworthy, Mata Vogel and Ngavaine Akarare. MELINA ETCHES. 23041917

Breanaa Vogel Goldsworthy is sporting her brand new customised Little Wave Flip wheelchair which features the colour she actually got to choose - purple, using her Eye Gaze computer device.

Her parents Mata Vogel and Bruce Goldsworthy Jnr were overwhelmed upon receiving the brand new chair and is appreciative to those who have made it possible.

“We are very grateful, because it’s through connections with wonderful people who are able to help make her life more comfortable helping us give her a good quality of life,” said Vogel.

Eight-year-old Breanaa has cerebral palsy, which describes a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture, her brain was damaged which has affected her speech and body movements.

Determined for their daughter to have a good quality of life Vogel searches the internet and keeps in contact with friends for any new equipment and devices which will benefit Breanaa.

“We need help with a child like Breanna, she has high needs and this equipment is very expensive, we have been very lucky.”

Vogel says they would like to create awareness for other families who have a child with cerebral palsy.

“We know there are other families out there who need assistance and we would like to give them hope.”

Vogel shared her emotional grief when she received the news her daughter had cerebral palsy caused by a virus during pregnancy which had crossed the placenta and into her baby.

On coming to terms with the devastating news Vogel says, “then I thought she’s going to be my forever baby… the other kids will grow up and leave…”

Breanaa cant swallow much and is fed through a tube with milk specially brought in for her from Aotearoa.

She was a year old when her Aunty the late Mata Ngamata formerly at the Creative Centre received a visit from a physiotherapist who kindly went to meet Breanna at home.

Donna Smith from Te Vaerua Rehabilitation Service clinical also visited their home introducing Kelly Reynolds from Kids Plus in Australia.

 “We have maintained a relationship with them,” said Vogel.

“Kelly has been working from a distance helping us with Breanaa, and she advised us that she needed a proper wheelchair to give her the support she needs to support her back.”

Reynolds is a paediatric physio therapist (for 23 years) who specializes in working with kids with cerebral palsy, “helping children learn to move and to move in different ways but, also setting up specialist equipment that supports them because they cant support themselves,” she said.

Networking through friends Reynolds made contact with Smith at Te Vaerua eight years ago and has been visiting the island every year with her husband Gavin ever since.

“We come and visit and meet the children and we can see what they need then we go back to Australia.

“With a friend in New Zealand we work out what equipment we need and then we get that together which is mostly donated and then we bring it here and set it up when we visit,” said Reynolds.

The couple bring over the donated equipment and Gavin builds the wheelchair, he also built Breanaa’s previous chair which she had grown out of and wasn’t sitting well so there was a need to get a bigger wheelchair with the right support for her.

Her new wheelchair is highly customised which has the ability to tilt backwards which helps position her head in just the right position for holding her head up and looking around and being involved in things, explained Reynolds.

“It has lots of extra postural support so that the child sits straight and her legs don’t cross and that they can be comfortable and relaxed in it.

“You have to specifically set the height of everything so that it all sits specific for Breanaa’s body,” said Reynolds.

Breanna now has an Eye Gaze computer device like a computer screen which has symbols on the screen, when she looks at a symbol it will select that symbol and it will speak that word for her.

“It’s incredible technology it picks up the light from your eyes so whatever you look at you select that on the screen,” said Reynolds.

Niania Matapakia from Mitiaro who also has cerebral palsy is usually carried around by his family, however, last week he was also gifted a special wheelchair built by Gavin with equipment from Altus Trust.

Two companies have generously donated Breanaa’s new wheelchair  - Active Rehab donated the base of the wheelchair, the frame and the wheels, and Medi Fab from New Zealand donated all of the seating the cushions, the back rest and head rest, Sue Fairhall from Altus Trust also helped source the seating.

Mata Vogel and Bruce Goldsworthy Jnr would like to acknowledge the late Mata Ngamata, Donna Smith for introducing Arul and Kelly to their Breanaa journey, Occupational Therapist Arul Hamil at Auckland’s children’s Star Ship hospital, Sue and Shamus Fairhall from Altus Trust, Dr Danny Stuart- the New Zealand visiting paediatrician who diagnosed Breanaa “and who has been with us since and continues to support us”, Kelly and Gavin Reynolds, Ashleigh Iro for raising awareness for Cerebral Palsy last year with the Go Green Be Seen campaign she initiated, and their families and friends who have provided support and assistance.