One giant leap for baby Olaya
Brittle-bone infant puts her best - and first - foot forward thanks to pioneering treatment funded by Jávea's local Spanish and foreign residents
By Samantha Kett
A BABY from Jávea with brittle-bone disease has taken her first steps – at around the same age as any other healthy child – thanks to treatment funded by residents.
Olaya, now 14 months old, was born with three major bone fractures and sustained another five within her first two weeks of life. Mum Laura Goberna, now 26, said she and Olaya's dad Ismael spent several hours dressing and bathing their infant as carefully as they could, but were still unable to prevent repeat broken bones.
Laura's own mum refused to hold her granddaughter as she was frightened of breaking her.
The family was referred to Valencia's pioneering La Fe Hospital, but no specialist was available.
Luckily, a person there recommended they seek out another well-known expert in brittle-bone children at Getafe University Hospital in the Greater Madrid region.
But with Laura out of work and having to be Olaya's full-time carer, the family survives on one wage and could not afford transport, accommodation and treatment – which is not covered by the state health service.
Jávea rallies the troops
Enter Jávea's warm-hearted, close-knit community, and thanks to Spaniards and expats alike raising funds through concerts, sports, social events and donations, the baby has been able to go for her two-monthly collagen injections to strengthen her bones.
Although she fractured a femur in the last two weeks, Olaya had not broken a bone in many months – a record, given that prior to treatment she would suffer breaks roughly every two days.
Whilst her condition usually means stunted growth and a lifetime in a wheelchair, Olaya 'never keeps still' – and has just walked for the first time.
“We're working closely with a physiotherapist to reinforce her muscles, so she doesn't break her bones,” said Laura.
She and Ismael are now so in tune with their daughter's condition that they recognise the type of crying that means she has sustained a fracture.
'She cries if she sees a doctor'
The road ahead is still rocky – as soon as Olaya sees a white-coated doctor or nurse she cries, anticipating another injection, and she will not be able to go to nursery school.
She will have a specialist carer with her at all times after she starts school.
But Olaya is the apple of her elder sister Gabriela's eye and, even at her young age, tries to copy everything she does.
And after her next, and eighth, injection in October, Olaya will have a bone-density test at La Fe.
Laura says she is 'eternally grateful' to Dr Mut of Dénia Hospital for pushing for them to get the appointment 'so soon'.
As well as funding Olaya's treatment, the local community has made it possible for the family to move to a bigger house so the baby has more room to play, bought padded pushchairs, cots and car seats, and a helmet to protect her skull and help it develop normally.
Those who have helped out are too numerous to mention, but include the charities Todos Juntos Jávea and Grant A Wish, and the Lancashire Bruja bar, which held a charity concert in December.