Six-year-old Rafal Adamiak has spent more time in hospital during his short life than many people have to endure over their whole lifetime. Not only does Rafal have Down’s syndrome and has difficulty walking, but he was also diagnosed with the rare blood cancer leukaemia at the age of one.
Since his cancer treatment, Rafal has also developed many other complications which have meant even more time in hospital. He has also been diagnosed with severe autism, has several learning and sensory difficulties, chronic serious middle ear inflammation, is prone to infections, he doesn’t talk at all… the list goes on. Needless to say, life for the Adamiak family has been far from normal.
But that hasn’t stopped them making the most of their time outside of hospital. Rafal loves going out for trips along Douglas Promenade, but he used to always be confined to a buggy due to his walking difficulties. That’s why in 2012 the family approached Dream Catcher for assistance.
“Me and my husband wanted to give him as normal a childhood as we could,” said Rafal’s mum, Gosia. “We wanted Rafal to be able to ride a bike like other children.”
Gosia and her husband Adam did some research and found a specially adapted tricycle with several accessories such as supports and a push handle which make it safe and secure for a child like Rafal. But the equipment was expensive and they were unable to afford it themselves.
“When Dream Catcher accepted my request I was over the moon with happiness. I couldn’t wait to take Rafal for a bike ride! From the beginning, Rafal was very pleased with his trike. He very gently sits on it and is always smiling when he is riding.
“This summer, Rafal has started pedalling on his own which is a big improvement. I remember when he pedalled for the first time: almost half Douglas Promenade heard me shouting YES! We were so proud of him! He’s also learned to press the little bell!”
Doctors also agree that the trike has been good for his development. “Riding the trike is also physiotherapy for him: he has very weak legs so it’s a great way to exercise. Rafal’s physiotherapist was very pleased with the trike and felt the equipment was great support for his back, hips and knees. The trike is also great for his development skills like visual and coordination and this has been confirmed by professionals. When we pull the trike by the handle, Rafal watches everything around him, turning his head to passing people and cars.”
Even after two years, the Adamiak family still make the most of their gift. Gosia describes one particularly poignant moment: “Once another little boy who was with his mum joined Rafal and they rode their bikes together! It was very emotional for us.”
Gosia added “This trike has changed Rafal’s childhood for a much more normal and happy one; it has changed our family life for a much happier one.”