Little Martin Salcedo is a bright, bubbly, curious two-year-old with a smile to melt your heart.
The son of Blackfriars ICT Support Officer Daniel Salcedo, Martin loves playing with cars and trucks and learning new words – in his parents’ native Spanish and in English.
But that gorgeous smile belies the challenges Martin faces on a daily basis. Martin has cerebral palsy spastic diplegia – a life-long, permanent condition that affects muscle control, coordination and tone, as well as posture and balance. It means he cannot walk independently.
Daniel and his wife, Carolina, first noticed something was wrong with their son when, last year, he started having small, tick-like seizures.
“It was just small ticks to start off with … it wasn’t too bad,” Daniel said. “But then the ticks started to become a little bit stronger, still under control, but we took him to the paediatrician.”
An MRI showed that Martin had cerebral palsy.
“It was shocking,” Daniel said of the diagnosis. “We were more worried about the seizures at that stage. We needed to have them under control. Because of the seizures, he wasn’t developing as he should. But once the seizures were under control, we could see the difference in one week with how he was progressing.
“And then he started moving forward a little bit but, because of the cerebral palsy, it comes with spasticity; that’s the main problem. So, he is still trying to walk.”
In the six months since his diagnosis, Martin has had casts to stretch and lengthen his legs and been given botox – under general anaesthetic – to reduce the stiffness in his muscles. He has weekly physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions to help build the strength in his little legs.
Like many people faced with unexpected challenges, Daniel turned to the internet for answers.
“I found some different groups on Facebook … and then, at some point, you find that there are some options,” Daniel said.
Best among those options was a life-changing procedure – selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery. The surgery would permanently reduce the spasticity in Martin’s legs and reduce the number of orthopaedic operations he might otherwise need. With the surgery, and intensive follow-up physiotherapy, it was hoped Martin will be able to one day walk independently.
The catch? The very best place for Martin to have the procedure is at the St Louis Children’s Hospital, in the US state of Missouri. While the surgery could be performed in Australia, Martin would have to wait until he was six years old.
“We had started doing some research into what happens to spasticity as you get older and … it will get worse,” Daniel said.
“That’s when I talked to all the mums here in Adelaide and one of them came to visit our house with her son, who had the (SDR) surgery last year. It’s amazing. She talked to us about how wonderful the people at the hospital in the United States are … and the doctor is the best in the world.”
Convinced the SDR surgery would change Martin’s life, Daniel and Carolina contacted the hospital asking for their son to be considered as a candidate. On 11 February, they got the good news. Martin’s surgery was scheduled for 11 April.
Daniel and Carolina have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover some of the $130,000 costs of the trip to the US, the surgery itself and many, many months of intensive post-surgery therapy.
“We are a little bit stressed,” Daniel said. “You think setting up a GoFundMe page is easy … but it’s not easy. It involves a lot of emotions. But, with the (SDR) surgery, we are hoping to avoid orthopaedic surgeries in the future. This is life-changing for him. We are hoping that we are just in time so Martin doesn’t need those surgeries in the future. We want this surgery to improve his quality of life.”
Donate to the GoFundMe page here.