The brave Sunderland tot who has spent most of her life in plaster

Best of Wearside Child of Courage nominee Rubie O'Brien
Mother Ciara Heffernan
Best of Wearside Child of Courage nominee Rubie O'Brien Mother Ciara Heffernan
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Brave Sunderland tot Rubie O’Brien has spend nearly three quarters of her life in plaster.

The two-year-old who has spina bifida, has battled with health problems since the day she was born.

Best of Wearside Child of Courage nominee Rubie O'Brien

Best of Wearside Child of Courage nominee Rubie O'Brien

But now, her outstanding courage has won her the first nomination in this year’s Best of Wearside Awards, which gets underway today.

Little Rubie from Norton Road, Southwick, has already had five operations, countless trips to hospital and spent 70% of her life in plaster cast.

Mum Ciara Heffernan, 26, and dad Kent O’Brien, 27, who are also parents to Lillie, five, said they were delighted with the nomination -in the Child of Courage category- which is testament to their daughter’s bravery.

Ciara, a midwifery student said: “Lots of people don’t know what the condition is.

Brave Rubie O'Brien in hospital after her hip and knee operation in September.

Brave Rubie O'Brien in hospital after her hip and knee operation in September.

“When I was pregnant with Rubie and had my 20 week scan, doctors said there was something wrong with her legs, spine and brain.

“I thought the worst and believed she would have no quality of life, wouldn’t be able to communicate and be stuck in a chair.

“But when I had another scan, doctors said they believed she had spina bifida but she should lead a normal life.

“They said she had quite a big sack on her back with fluid and spinal cords inside.

Brave Rubie O'Brien in hospital after her hip and knee operation in September.

Brave Rubie O'Brien in hospital after her hip and knee operation in September.

“I was scanned every four weeks after that and when she was born on July 21, 2014, her feet were up to her ears. 
“So the day after she had an operation on her back and was looked after in the paediatric intensive care unit.”

Rubie was in the Royal Victoria Infirmary for nine days after she was born and had casts on her legs for talipes which meant she had clubbed feet.

She has undergone operations to help straighten one of her feet and snip the tendons of both feet.

At just nine months old little battler Rubie underwent surgery on her hips after being born with hip dysplasia, which means the ball of the joints are not in their sockets.

Rubie O'Brien in hospital with her sister Lillie after she was born.

Rubie O'Brien in hospital with her sister Lillie after she was born.

Then on September 22 she received further surgery on her knees and hips at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, which aimed to put her joint in the right place.

The surgery saw the brave youngster spend five nights in hospital while she received blood transfusions, but mum Ciara said the surgery seems to have gone well and scans planned next month will confirm whether it has been successful.

Rubie, who now has her legs in casts for the next few weeks, also has to be catheterised four times a day and is on daily medication and regular physio.

But the future looks bright for Rubie, ever since a Facebook appeal led to Jarrow charity Community Corner providing the £2,886 needed for a special wheelchair which has given Rubie her independence.

Rubie’s parents have high hopes for their daughter and believe she can be anything she wants to be despite her condition.

On her nomination mum Ciara said she was delighted: “I was completely shocked at the nomination and called my mum straight away.
“It is such good news and so lovely that she has been put forward for it and everyone is so proud of her.
“It is something for her to look back on in the future.
“I hope Rubie’s story will raise awareness of the condition and make people aware that every child who has been diagnosed with spina bifida is a unique case.
“I don’t ask why this happened to Rubie, I know that Rubie was meant to be ours and her condition is a part of her.”

Rubie O'Brien in hospital after she was born.

Rubie O'Brien in hospital after she was born.

Rubie becomes the first entry in our awards which searches for unsung heroes in the community. Now comes your chance to nominate your own favourites.

There are 10 categories to choose from this year and you can find out more in our eight-page supplement inside today’s paper.

Sponsors for the Best of Wearside Awards.

Sponsors for the Best of Wearside Awards.