Giving little Katie the chance to walk

A campaign is underway in the Carrick-on-Suir area to raise E60,000 to give a three year-old girl the chance to walk independently.

A campaign is underway in the Carrick-on-Suir area to raise E60,000 to give a three year-old girl the chance to walk independently.

Little Katie Lonergan from Owning near Carrick-on-Suir has Cerebral Palsy Spastic Quadriplegia. Her parents John and Aisling Lonergan will bring her to St Louis in Missouri in April to undergo a Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) operation that will give her better balance as well as the chance to walk.

They set up a fundraising committee before Christmas to help raise funds for this ground breaking treatment at the Children’s Hospital at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.

Aisling said they received news in December that Katie was a suitable candidate for the SDR operation and set up the fund-raising committee and opened a bank account for donations at the Bank of Ireland in Carrick-on-Suir.

The Lonergans have also set up a website: to highlight the cause and to update the public on the various fund-raising efforts taking place to help pay for the operation.

Their bubbly little daughter is a surviving twin, who lost her brother Conor shortly after birth. The twins were born 15 weeks premature.

Katie, whose grandparents are Sean and the late Margaret Lonergan from Kilsheelan, and David and Sheila MacSweeney, Piltown, fought a long, hard battle to survive.

She spent 19 weeks in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit in Waterford Regional Hospital and had heart surgery in Crumlin Childrens’ Hospital, Dublin.

At eighteen months, she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy Spastic Quadriplegia and John and Aisling were advised she would never walk. Cerebral Palsy is a non-progressive condition that causes physical disability in development, which can be due to damage to the developing brain.

In Katie Lonergan’s case, the damage was due to her very premature birth, her very low birth weight (23 ounces) and her stormy neo-natal period.

There is no cure for Cerebral Palsy but there are medical interventions available to treat the complications.

Katie’s parents’ aim is to make her as independent as possible, and while researching the interventions available, they came across Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy.

SDR is the only surgical procedure that can provide permanent reduction of spasticity in Cerebral Palsy and it is not available in Ireland.

Aisling and John explain that SDR will give Katie the chance to live a more independent life.

It will reduce the spasticity and lower the risk of future surgeries due to contractures and thereby make her future less painful.

The Lonergans contacted the Children’s Hospital at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and sent Katie’s medical information and a video for evaluation for Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery.

Aisling said the reply they received from the hospital was that Katie was an excellent candidate for this treatment. The hospital has recommended early surgery as the earlier the treatment is carried out the better. Katie will spend five weeks in St Louis when she travels out there in April with her parents.

The reply Aisling and John received from the hospital outlined many improvements in Katie’s condition following the surgery, including better balance and level of comfort as well as a chance to walk independently.

Aisling said the fund-raising efforts are now getting underway and so far they have collected between E8000 and E9000.

She has been overwhelmed with the public response and generosity to their campaign.

“We have had a lot of schools doing no-uniforms days, people doing the Runamuck Challenge volunteering to raise funds and people getting in touch to say they are doing a marathon and would like to raise money for Katie, which is lovely. There is plenty of events on the horizon. We don’t mind how the money comes in,” she told The Nationalist.

Anyone wishing to make donations should lodge them to ‘Katie’s Wish to Walk”, Bank of Ireland, Main Street, Carrick on Suir, Account Number 19529465.

Donations can also be made online via the website ‘