Malta Diary THE LOVE OF PARENTS MARCELLE AND MARIO ABELA FOR THEIR GABRIEL – love, devotion and endeavour without frontiers
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Devoted love has no boundaries even when all the evidence and indications – including medical – pronounce the situation to be irredeemable. This is the incredible story of love and devotion of Marcelle Abela and her husband Mario and their six-year-old son Gabriel.
Gabriel was born with a condition that resulted in his being unable to walk properly. Today, he can walk unaided, a glowing tribute to his perseverance in the face of a virtually impossible challenge and the 24/7 devotion and perseverance of his parents.
Their message is loud and clear – never give up – a message to all those suffering disabilities and in this particular case to all parents to keep insisting on healing and therapy and having faith and hope.
Formerly residing in Kalkara, part of Malta’s Cottonera District (within the shadow of the famed Three Cities of Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa), the family has now relocated to Marsascala.
Marcelle and Mario were informed when Gabriel was born that he had leukodystrophy, with great complications, including his future inability to be able to walk properly.
Rather than resigning themselves to the situation and accepted that’s that and nothing can be done, Marcelle and Mario saw this as the start of a mission to do everything possible for Gabriel. With patience and determination they continued to pursue medical assistance and were then informed that in fact Gabriel did not have leukodystrophy but cerebral palsy.
Last year the Abelas determined to find remedies and continued to insist on further therapy that they financed from their own means. A year ago he had to walk with the support of a walker and when he tried to walk a short distance unaided, he would fall. Today, with therapy provided by Malta’s main hospital and the specialised therapy they finance, Gabriel can walk unaided.
Now he walks alone without experiencing problems and is able to appreciate his independence. Gone are the cumbersome metal walkers and other equipment that had to be carried everywhere, including school. Happily he can now walk up and down the corridor, enjoying a totally independent and normal life.
Reflecting on their experiences, Marcelle’s verdict is that although doctors with their medical advice try to do their best, it is essential for parents to have courage and never stop their efforts in searching for cures and remedies – even when they are constantly informed the search would be fruitless, impossible.
Today Gabriel attends the St Margaret Primary School at nearby Xghajra and enjoys a full educational system under the care of a Specialised Learning Assistant (LSA). On the day of his birth, it was the immediate response of doctors and nurses on duty when he suffered a few seconds of cardiac arrest. Fortunately, his cognitive levels were amazingly ‘untouched’ and do not hinder his ability to communicate, his learning abilities and even his being able to read and write.
With determination and continual internet research and communication, Marcelle and Mario ploughed on and continued to gain as much information and knowledge to support and strengthen Gabriel’s resolve never to give up hope and never to be resigned to a situation.
Their researches led them to discover a therapeutic strength treatment called ‘strength therapy’. Basically this is a form of therapy that helps the patient and the parents in the case of the patient being a child realise that they have muscles that are not usually used and so these therapists teach the child to strengthen those muscles. In other words they find hidden abilities that may be acquired by hard work, dedication and patience and then strengthen and enhance these abilities.
Gabriel also benefits from hydrotherapies and through them he will gradually learn how to swim, an endurance challenge yet to be faced. However, when one remembers that he suffered a brain injury that caused a three year delay in physical development and yet he is defying so many odds, one has so much to reflect upon as to never ever give up – even though they were told in the past that Gabriel may not even ride a bike, nor play football or even dance!
Mum Marcelle sums all of this up: “The moral of this is that one should never accept the basic information given to them at the beginning and to give up. If we had just accepted all that we were told we would have let our son fall into apathy and his condition would have worsened. However my husband and I were not having it! We went out there, did our homework and will continue doing so. Everyone deserves a good shot at life. It’s either apathy or empathy … we chose empathy and that is the key to a solution in life. Gabriel has been our best teacher all round!”
Gabriel is the youngest of three children in the Abela family together with brother Luke (now 25) and sister Naomi (now 16).
Touchingly, when he took his first unaided walk along the corridor, he turned on Marcelle and with a sigh of relief told her that now because he can walk they no longer need to be anxious about him because he knows he was giving them a lot of work.
Marcelle was astoundingly left speechless by this show of appreciation and perspective.
However, matters do not merely end there. The mission has not as yet been entirely accomplished.
In Marcelle’s own words: “We now are looking into applying for further treatments abroad that will help Gabe improve his gait and spasticity. This eases the discomfort every child and adult affected with a CP (cerebral palsy) has to endure.”
One of these called ‘Hamstring Lengthening’ can be performed in Malta.
The other is called an SDR (Selective Dorsal Ryhzothomy), a procedure that releases tension from the ends of the defective nerves by being carefully selected and ‘cut away’ to release the spasticity (tightness of muscles and nerve pulling in the legs) allowing more free movement and less discomfort for the patient. It is known as a miraculous operation that with continuous rehabilitation followed up with physiotherapy and strength therapies will have a successful outcome and so provide a better gait and balance.
Marcelle and Mario have taken videos of Gabriel walking and have sent them to the United States to Professor T. S. Park and to all intents it appears the professor has accepted to undertake the delicate operation. Professor Park may accept to come to Malta to perform the operation, otherwise the Abelas will take Gabriel to Serbia as the professor has informed them he is due to be there.
If all goes to plan the procedure will have been completed by July next year.
“The Devil has no milk”
Based on the presumption the Devil provides no positives but merely negatives. It is used in situations that are already bad and then deteriorate even further – this seen to be the work of the Devil creating even more difficulties.