Watch battling Sunderland youngster Rubie ride her new bike
A brave Sunderland tot who has battled with health problems from day one has gained her independence thanks to a specially adapted trike.
Three-year-old Rubie O’Brien has already had more than five operations, countless trips to hospital and spent 70% of her life in plaster cast after being born with spina bifida.
The condition occurs when a baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.
But now the youngster from Norton Road, in Southwick, has been given the gift of mobility thanks to a specially adapted trike that sees her pedal with her arms rather than her legs.
The sparkly pink Tomcat Trike means that she is able to move around freely like any other child her age - something that her mum Ciara Heffernan says means the world to her.
Ciara, 27, who is also mum to Lillie, six, said: “The bike is absolutely amazing, she loves it.
“Kids her age have started using bikes, so it is nice for her to be able to do the same.
“Her sister is desperate to have a go and everyone has been commenting on it.”
The specially adapted bike cost just over £3,000 and saw generous family members and South Tyneside based charity Community Corner comer together to pay for it, with the charity stepping in with the final £600.
The bike has three wheels and sees Rubie pedal it by the handles. It also has gears and the break high up where she can reach it and features a parent handle with a break.
Mum Ciara added: “Everything is adjustable so it can grow with her.
“We hope it will improve her upper body strength.
“I always say she is my little paralympian in the making, so this is perfect and I am so proud of her.”
Little Rubie has had an incredible journey to get to this point.
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.
Then she received further surgery on her knees and hips at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, which aimed to put her joints in the right place.