Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Oliver's Eyes

"His teachers are really excited because they can't wait to see where he is in ten or fifteen years. They feel he has the ability to go to college or university."
"It is not for everybody -- don't for a second think that our lives are easy. What we have learned from Oliver, what we have seen him do, and his determination is something you don't see in all children, and as hard as it is to raise differently-abled children ... we would do it again and again without a doubt."
"There is nowhere else we would want to be and we do not have a single regret for the decisions we have made. We would do it all over again in a heart beat. And that is thanks to Oliver."
Melissa Lumley-Pfeil
Bruno Schlumberger / Ottawa Citizen

Oliver is five years old now. When he was six months old, Melissa and Sue Lumnley-Pfeil first came across him. He was, at that time, in palliative care at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. And they had gone there for treatment for their own child, Zoey, born in 2007 with an undiagnosed rare genetic syndrome. It was there, where their daughter Zoey was receiving treatment, and they were staying at Rogers House, that they met "skinny, bald" Oliver.

Deprived of oxygen for 20 minutes during a traumatic birth procedure, he was initially pronounced dead, and then resuscitated. And like their own daughter, he was extremely fragile, an infant with multiple special needs, in palliative care. The two women, concerned over the welfare of their tiny daughter, were immediately drawn to the little boy. Sue is a nurse, and Melissa a social worker. They indicated their interest in adopting Oliver, then in foster care.

Warned of the extreme difficulties involved in raising a child with such extensive special needs, they confidently assured the social workers they were prepared to meet all contingencies; they wanted to adopt the child and that was that. They felt that their daughter and the little boy had formed some kind of link and they wanted it to be a permanent link, themselves included. And the two children did become close.

But while Oliver thrived, gaining weight and advancing, Zoey's condition deteriorated. And she died at four years of age. Oliver still 'talks' about her. And so do his two younger biological sisters, Madison, five, and Libbie, four. They too joined the family just months after Zoey's death in 2012. In mourning, the women were informed Oliver's sisters were in foster care, hoping for permanent homes. At first loath to commit so soon after Zooey's death, they finally succumbed and adopted the two girls.

Oliver is immensely distanced from the often distressed hypersensitive infant the women had brought home to become their son. They speak of him as a "social butterfly". He is eager to amuse and tells a joke with the aid of the communications system that helps him speak. "Why did the kids throw the butter in the air? Because they wanted to see butter fly."

He has the use of a motorized wheelchair and controls it using his feet and his head. Wearing a T-shirt with the admission printed on it of "Boy Genius", he moves his eyes across a special screen. The eyes have it. This is a Dynavox communications system mounted on the front of his power wheelchair, using infrared lighting following Oliver's eye movements. When his eyes connect with the touch screen it speaks for Oliver.

He is now at grade level at the Ontario Children's Treatment Centre, attending senior kindergarten. The youngest child in Ontario to use eye-gaze technology he plays sledge hockey and baseball. He spends two hours daily travelling from his home in Almonte to attend school and receive treatment and support at the Ontario Children's Treatment Centre. "He is an amazing little boy", school principal Leslie Walker says.

His parents plan to send him to the elementary school in Almonte down the street from where they live, next year. This is the school his two younger sisters go to.

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