Mum’s battle gets a helping hand

Ivan and mum Pavlina
Ivan and mum Pavlina
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A Yorkshire company is changing the life of a severely disabled boy and his mother in Bulgaria. Catherine Scott reports.

WHEN Ivan Radkova was born with severe cerebral palsy his mother was told to abandon him as he was sure not to survive.

But for the last 15 years, his mother Pavlina has succeeded in giving her son a good quality of life. However when it came to his education, a Yorkshire company has helped make her dream of sending her son to school a reality.

“My little brave boy is a prisoner in his own body suffering from spastic cerebal palsy and hydrocephalus – water on the brain. At 14 he was as big as me and carrying him up so many steps to the school doors after three hours travelling on three buses was exhausting. And then Acorn’s stairlift arrived and everything changed.”

Pavlina never gave up on Ivan’s chance of a “normal” education in a country where disability intolerance is rife.

Her bid to educate Ivan in a state school after battling with the authorities ever since he was born, was supported by Steeton-based Acorn Stairlifts who built, shipped and installed a stairlift.

Ivan was born two months premature weighing just 3lbs 8oz. Doctors insisted he would not survive the night and he was taken from Pavlina into an institute for vulnerable babies.

Knowing that despite his physical challenges, Ivan had an active and intelligent brain, Pavlina was determined her son would not be sent away and hidden from normal life.

And Ivan showed an unexpected strength of spirit. “Even then he was stubborn and decided to live – it was like he sensed that I believed in him and for 54 days I didn’t stop saying to him, to myself and to my family that he would survive. I knew that if he could fight we could fight too.”

After nine weeks Ivan was discharged from the institute under repeated warnings that there was no hope and he wouldn’t live for long.

“The staff tried to convince me to leave him and not take this “burden” with me. To forget him and have other children. But what mother could turn their back on their child?” Pavlina found a specialist, who confirmed that Ivan had cerebal palsy. He underwent numerous operations, but doctors gave Ivan just two years to live as the pressure against his brain was causing severe symptoms. But now 15 years later, with Pavlina still administering 80 per cent of Ivan’s rehabilitation and caring for his every need, the duo have triumphed.

Word of Pavlina and Ivan’s struggle reached Acorn who were looking to lend their support to a Bulgarian child or family after seeing the plight of disabled children in the hard-hitting documentary Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children made by British independent film producer Kate Blewett. The company contacted Kate’s charity, The Bulgarian Abandoned Children’s Trust, to see how they could help and were told of Pavlina’s struggle to gain access to Ivan’s school.

Kate Blewett has followed Pavlina’s progress and gone on to make further hard hitting documentaries, including the recently 
aired Ukraine’s Forgotten Children, which resulted in two more Acorn Stairlifts being installed at the Chernihivsky’s Children’s Home in Ukraine.

“What we strive for in all our documentaries is that they literally do help to change people’s lives,” explains Kate.

“Our aim is to raise awareness and expose some of the hidden issues that go unseen by the outside world. Acorn Stairlifts has done what so many organisations fail to do. Take notice, take interest and take action.

“This level of support and input after seeing our films makes every part of the documentary making process worthwhile. We can and we do make a difference – and the expertise and support of companies such as Acorn is vital to helping improve lives.”

Acorn Stairlifts sales director Jules Allen said: “Our aim was to make a difference to someone’s life and knowing how Pavlina has struggled but ultimately triumphed in her incredible care of Ivan is an incredible story and we feel privileged to have played a part in supporting her quest and Ivan’s dream of getting access to a normal education.”

For more information visit www.tbact.org

Making a real difference

TBACT director Siobhain Santry says: “There are so many children who could benefit from an Acorn stairlift but the family that was against the clock and where we knew we could make a difference quickly was Ivan and Pavlina.

“Pavlina’s determination to give Ivan a public education and not subject him to a corner of an institutionalised ‘school’ meant she faced a three-hour journey every day just to get to school – and was then faced with a raft of steps. We knew that if Ivan had the stairlift installed at his school, it would save his mother the huge strain and exhaustion she experienced.”