Glenavy girl gets early Christmas gift

Katie McGarry
Katie McGarry

A Glenavy girl received an early Christmas present in the form of a special bed.

Katie McGarry, aged four, who suffers from autism and cannot speak, got an emergency loan of the special bed which according to her mother Jillian has ‘transformed her life.’

The bed, known as a SafeSpace Voyager, was given to Katie McGarry by Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness .

Thanks to its strong but soft construction it has rapidly become her ‘calm place.’

She cannot injure herself when she’s in it – and with Katie safe at night it means the rest of the family are able to enjoy more a goodnights sleep.

Katie has difficulty understanding the world around her and has no awareness of danger. She displays challenging behaviour which sometimes causes her to hurt herself and has difficulty sleeping, often napping for just two or three hours a night.

Jillian said: “If you had told me a bed could make this much difference, I don’t think I would have believed you. I don’t know how we managed for so long before the bed arrived. It’s made a huge difference.

“We were a bit worried before it arrived as Katie knows what she likes and what she doesn’t, but she liked it straight away.

“I know she can’t come to any harm in there so I have actually had more sleep in the past few months than I have in the past three years.

“I can doze off now and not worry about what might happen to her if I do.”

Katie would climb on furniture and her bed had to be removed to keep her safe.

She would often climb onto the bed then onto windowsills and jump off repeatedly.

This meant mum, Jillian, would have to stay awake all night just to monitor her.

In desperation, the family contacted Newlife Foundation - who recognised the urgency of the situation and arranged for a special bed to be delivered through its Emergency Loan Service.

Jillian continued: “Katie actually prefers to chill out more in the Safespace Voyager now than she does in the sensory room we have for Katie and her older sister Keeva, who also has Autism.

“Her quality of sleep is much better now too and she seems more rested.

“If Katie is having a bad day she will self-harm, but we can take her in the safe space and she can’t hurt herself.

“She is much calmer in there and even if she does lash out we know she’s not hurting herself on the walls.”

In response to the growing need for essential equipment in County Antrim, earlier this year Newlife Foundation launched its County Antrim Fund.

The fund’s website – www.newlifecharity.co.uk/antrim -enables local people to find out who needs help in their county.

There are two children in Co Antrim with disabilities and illness with equipment needs totalling £5,820

For more information ring the Newlife County Liaison Team 01543 431 444 or email local@newlifecharity.co.uk.