IT’S NOT everyday a child’s first pair of glasses makes the news, but for Princes Park youngster Dakota Clarke it represents another incredible step in her life-changing medical treatment.
Six-year-old Dakota suffers from septo-optic dysplasia. The condition, which she was born with, means she has no pituitary gland and requires a regular course of injections in order to produce the growth hormone to aid her development.
The Jordanstown School pupil also has under-developed optic nerves and is registered blind.
However, since she underwent a series of stem cell replacement treatments in China her health has improved remarkably.
In 2009 and 2010, Dakota and her family travelled to the Qingdao region for the revolutionary treatment and courses of therapy.
And almost immediately the improvements were obvious. Dakota’s mother, Wilma explained: “For a long time Dakota suffered a bowel problem that was never really explained to us as to why it was happening.
“Essentially, she never had a solid movement and almost immediately after the treatment the problem went away. I remember being in floods of tears on the phone to my mum the first time Dakota had a solid bowel movement, we were so delighted.
“And ever since Dakota has never had to take medicine for the problem. It really was incredible and an incredible success.”
Wilma continued: “Since the treatment, Dakota’s speech has cleared up and now she is able to walk unassisted when before she needed someone to hold her hands. It has completely transformed her life.
“People have really noticed the change in Dakota since she had the treatment. Before, she was always shy around strangers, but when we got back from China she was going up to visitors to the house and wanting to sit on their knee - something she would never have done in the past.”
Dakota still struggles with noise and has difficultly around new people and despite the incredible transformation, she will always suffer difficulties throughout life.
Wilma added: “Dakota is a little star, she is a typical little girl, always doing the things she loves. She is obsessed with princesses and really wants to meet the Queen. She is such a clever girl.
“But then the other day one of the kids came to our door to ask if she was coming out to play - which she can’t - and you get those reminders that she is not the same as everyone else and it breaks your heart.
“But there are also times when she is such an inspiration to us all. My health has not been the best recently, but I think of Dakota and how much she has been through and that helps me and us all.”
Wilma continued: “Going to China was a major journey for us. Doctors here were not supportive and said we would get infections and there would be complications.
“But the entire time we were there, which was over a month there were never any problems, indeed the only infections Dakota ever got was at hospitals here.
“In China, everyone, the nurses and all doctors were fantastic and they looked after us so well.”
Last month, during her annual check-up, Dakota was given a minor prescription for a pair of glasses.
Her mother continued: “It’s only a slight prescription, but even that was a major improvement. Anything that can help her in anyway, no matter how small, is huge.
“We went round the world, spent thousands on treatment and it was such a proud day for us to see our little Dakota get her new glasses.
“We said she was a big girl for getting them and she said that if she was a big girl, then she should get her ears pierced. So her father took her along, as I couldn’t watch that happen - it was all too much.”
The family are still fundraising and hope to be able to travel again to China for more treatment.
Wilma added: “Going to China was incredible. There were so many people there experiencing the same things as us and we made so many friends that we still keep in touch with to this day.
“We would love to be able to go out again and are fundraising for it, but there is no rush at the moment.”