Little Alfie just keeps smiling

Little Alfie
Little Alfie

Little Alfie Corbett loves the Teletubbies and Zac from the Zingzillas.

And his face lights up when his mum produces a puppet and encourages him brightly to “come and get Panda”.

It’s only when you watch him closely that you discover that he can’t yet walk towards the toy, although he gives it a good go.

And, at two-and-a-half years old, he also doesn’t speak.

That’s because, three months ago, he was diagnosed with Cri du Chat, a syndrome so rare that it affects less than 300 children in Britain.

It means that Alfie could very well suffer problems with his growth and mental development, display behavioural problems, and have difficulties with his speech and the way he communicates.

It’s been a devastating shock for his family who have seen the little boy go through so much already.

Mum Morna Crawford said: “When he was born, he had a severe foot deformity.

“His toes were touching his shins and, at nine-months-old, he went through major reconstructive surgery.

“The operation was a success but he still has to wear a splint at night just to give him support and keep everything in place

“At this point, we didn’t know if there was anything neurologically wrong with Alfie.

“He’d had MRI scans and CT scans and they all came back clear.”

But by the time Alfie turned one, Morna, who is also mum to seven-year-old Harry, felt something else was wrong.

She said: “He just wasn’t doing the things that little boys his age should be doing.

“But because of the problems he’d had with his feet, we were told that that was probably the reason his development was delayed.”

However, earlier this year, blood tests revealed more.

Morna recalled: “We got a phone call from the paediatrician saying that he wanted to see us that Friday about the results.

“We worked out that it was a chromosome problem that the doctors wanted to see us about.

“Before we went to the hospital, Stephen (Alfie’s dad and Morna’s fiance) had already found out about Cri du Chat on the Internet and he said to me, ‘that’s what Alfie’s got’.”

Even with these uncanny suspicions, the diagnoses was still a bombshell.

“We were devastated,” said Morna.

Cri du Chat is a group of symptoms that result from part of the number five chromosome being missing.

Worst case scenario, the couple discovered, was that Alfie would need life-long care and would probably be unable to walk and talk.

The Laurieston mum said: “We don’t think that he’s at the worst end of the scale and doctors have also said that.

“That’s a comfort to us.

“It’s really a waiting game now. We’ll just have to see how he develops and what he can and can’t do.

“We are hoping he will be able to walk. We’re quite positive people.”

The care package of speech therapy and physio-therapy for Alfie will continue as before, but, as he grows, he’s likely to need special equipment like walkers, bed frames and buggies.

A close family member, Denise Matheson, has now organised a fundraising event for Alfie in February which will feature tribute acts, raffles and auctions.

The aim of the night is to support the family, raise awareness and gather funds that the tot’s parents may need to support their son through the years.

Denise said: “As a family, we want to do all that we can to help out, making life easier for Stephen, Morna, Harry and Alfie.

“Alfie’s diagnosis came as such a blow to us all. I love fundraising and have spent many years doing it, so am more than happy to do this.”

Morna, who works a Full Stop in Falkirk, added: “We are just overwhelmed that people want to do this for us.

“We are really looking forward to it.”

For Alfie, who is clearly a happy little boy, the frustration continues.

His sleeping patterns are, and always have been, erratic, and he cannot feed himself.

His food has also got to be smooth, as problems with his throat associated with the syndrome means he was trouble swallowing.

Alfie is also susceptible to illnesses.

He’s recovering from croup and has had pneumonia twice.

Morna said: “He understands what you are saying and he does try to walk but doesn’t have the confidence or the strength in his legs.

“He’s a great wee boy, he’s a character.

“You need to watch him all the time as he has no sense of danger at all.

“But he’s great, he’s got a great sense of humour.”

Whatever challenges await Alfie in the future, it’s clear that he has a solid and loving family around him.

And, the way his mum looks at him, Alfie’s nothing short of perfect.