A boy born with a rare heart condition has returned home to Westhill from an incredible holiday to Disney World in Florida.
Alex Crichton, 9, who had open heart surgery at just two weeks old due to a congenital heart defect, truncus arteriosus, won a place on a Caudwell Children’s Destination Dreams holiday.
After his mum Julie, 43, saw him watching videos of other children having a great time in Disney World, she hoped to find a way to bring the same joy to Alex.
Her friend suggested applying to the Destination Dreams holiday programme, which was created in 2017 to give 25 children with life-limiting conditions a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Julie said: “I thought we would never get picked. There are so many children that are deserving and I tend not to think of Alex as being that ill.”
Therefore, she was surprised – but thrilled – when she found out she would be able to give her son a break from all his hospital appointments and physiotherapy sessions.
She said: “The holiday was brilliant. It was absolutely amazing. It was a very quick, fun-filled week that just flew by.
“Alex really enjoyed Universal Studios, the weather was really amazing. We found Disney World very busy, but there was a really chilled atmosphere at Universal Studios.
“The highlight for me was just being there and seeing Alex having fun and enjoying himself.
“His favourite character was dinosaur Blue from Jurassic Park. He also loved meeting the Simpsons.”
In addition to meeting lovable characters in Disney World and having a fabulous time in Universal Studios, Alex, Julie and her mum Kathleen Caie, 64, also visited Seaworld.
Julie said: “We stayed in Give Kids the World village.
“We had our own villa in the village which is run by American volunteers.
“There’s everything in the village – swimming pools, cinema – it’s a little world on its own.
“There were lots of activities for children. You could have spent all your time there.”
Alex also received a personalised star which was placed on the ceilings of the Castle of Miracles and Star Tower in the village. This commemorates Alex’s time at the village and the light that shines within him.
The holiday was funded by Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families.
Mark Bushell from Caudwell Children said: “Time is so precious to the families who are selected for Destination Dreams and they take lots of photos to remember the special moments. Nothing will ever be more memorable than their trip to Disney World, and to see the smiles on Alex’s face was simply wonderful.”
To make sure every child receives the medical support they require to travel and spend time abroad, the charity took a team of paediatric doctors and nurses on the trip.
Before going, Alex underwent surgery earlier this year. The valve in his heart deteriorated when he was just 17 months old.
After going through surgery in 2010, Alex suffered strokes which caused damage to his brain. Due to this, the nine-year-old doesn’t have full use of his left arm.
He also had difficulty walking due to his right leg being shorter than his left. Metal plates were put in Alex’s left leg to stop it from growing two years ago.
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These were removed in February and tendon lengthening, a procedure which elongates a contracted Achilles tendon, was performed on his right leg.
The surgeries, which were done at the same time, were successful. Alex doesn’t have to use a wheelchair every day, but due to his heart condition, he gets tired more easily.
And since he did a lot of walking in Florida – taking in everything Disney World and Universal Studios have to offer – he sometimes needed to rest in a wheelchair.
In addition to winning the wonderful trip to Disney World, he has recently received an accolade from his local church.
Skene Parish Church created Young Heroes awards to celebrate courageous youngsters within the parish.
Alex’s head teacher nominated him for the Coping with Adversity award and he received the accolade at last month’s awards ceremony.