The family of a Hackney “miracle baby” has launched an appeal to give her the independence to “run like the wind”.
Six-year-old Maija Pettitt was born prematurely and has quadriplegia (a form of bilateral cerebral palsy), Triple X syndrome and global developmental delay.
She weighed just 470 grams at birth and spent three months in intensive care at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel before she was moved closer to home to spend a further six months in Homerton Hospital.
Her twin brother, who arrived a week later, only lived for 30 days.
Maija was fed through a tube until she was three and a half. She is unable to walk by herself but works with a physiotherapist and has tried out a range of equipment to help her mobility at Hackney Ark Centre, a specialist centre for children with disabilities and special educational needs which is run by Homerton Hospital.
She needs constant assistance to move and is unable to independently operate her wheelchair or walker.
Her family is raising funds towards a RaceRunner bike, which has given her a chance of independence.
Maija’s mother Elke Pettitt said: “She’s been reliant on us but the bike gives her a bit of independence and the freedom of being able to race other children going round the race track. It’s a great bike and easy to steer.
“It’s another world for us.”
Maija uses the bike at an accessible running club in Waltham Forest, set up by a physiotherapist, as often as possible and “just loves it”.
Pettitt added: “Maija is incredible – she’s amazed us all! She’s come such a long way since then – from being ventilated, on oxygen and tube-fed to now being an energetic little girl who loves to learn and play.”
She said if Maija had her own equipment she would use it whenever she can.
It will help strengthen her legs, which will improve her walking endurance and balance, and steering will help boost her hip joints and strengthen her arm and tummy muscles.
Pettitt said she hopes Maija will be able to explore the Olympic park and Victoria park using the bike. She really enjoys being outdoors and would love the ability to play with her older brother, Till, who’s 12, using the RaceRunner.
Maija has begun to speak sentences and PE is her favourite school subject.
Pettitt said: “Looking back, it’s hard to believe how far she has come. Everything was so surreal when Maija was in ICU; it felt like we were in a terrible movie.
“Trying to juggle being there for my older son, who was five at the time, and trips to the hospital while coming to terms with losing Maija’s twin was just awful. We had to just get on with it, but it was extremely hard for all of us.
“Maija’s journey has been a difficult one, but I’m so proud of her. She’s surprised us all with her determination. She really doesn’t let anything stand in her way!
“She truly is our miracle!”
The Children Today Charitable Trust will cover more than a third of the cost of the RaceRunner but the family still needs to raise £1,083 towards it.
You can donate through Maija’s RaceRunner fundraising page at childrentoday.org.uk/helpmaija.