In the early 2000s, a child with cerebral palsy was born in Australia. His parents, Gary and Narelle Cook, named him Sidney.
At three months old, Sidney was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Now, Sidney is a fun-loving, adventurous kid, but because of his diagnosis, he is wheelchair-bound. Sidney has always loved spending time with his parents, especially when they are exploring the great Australian outdoors.
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor development disability in children.
Cerebral palsy affects the brain and often happens because of trauma that occurs during the birthing process. There are seven signs of cerebral palsy that parents can look for at birth: low muscle tone, head strength, poor reflexes and muscle control, muscle spasms, delayed development, difficulties eating and drinking, and preference to one side of the body.
Some of these signs were present in Sidney Cook, which allowed his parents to get an early diagnosis. For as long as Sidney can remember, this has been his life — it isn’t strange to him to be in a wheelchair.
But being a child with cerebral palsy has caused some perceivable differences in his life.
Sidney and his family lived a relatively normal life, but they had a dream that had been put on the backburner for a long time: hiking to Cape York, Australia’s northernmost point. It would have been hard for the family to complete this
It would have been hard for the family to complete this “bucket list” item normally, but to make matters worse, Gary Cook had just undergone back surgery, and Narelle Cook was recovering from a knee injury. Since the two parents were suffering from injuries, they wouldn’t be able to carry Sidney like they normally might have considered.
They were motivated to make the trip, though. Gary Cook took to Facebook to ask for suggestions: he posted on a Cape York Adventures page, writing, “G’day all, we are heading to the Cape in August & wondering how we can get our disabled son up the very tip.”
Gary was looking for any ideas — how to get a permit to drive closer to the coastline, how they could use a carrier, or if anyone had a similar experience.
But the family got so much more than the small suggestions they were expecting. Within fifteen minutes, Gary had a response from the acting senior constable of the local Bamaga police department, Talina O’Brien.
Bamaga is a small town about 25 miles from Cape York. It is located in the north of Queensland, Australia, within the Northern Peninsula Area Region. Bamaga has a small police force, but that doesn’t stop them from getting involved with the community.
Constable O’Brien was perusing Facebook when she came across Gary’s posting. She immediately knew that her department could do something to help. She contacted other people in her department, and the positive response was overwhelming. A local man offered to build a special lift-chair for Sidney, and on the day of the hike, tons of people came to show their support.
Some police officers even came in on their day off to be part of the excitement. The lift-chair was built to suit Sidney, so it was comfortable and the perfect size for him. Four officers carried Sidney all the way to the cape, and when they reached the sign indicating that they were at the northernmost point of the continent, there was a film crew waiting to surprise the group.
Happy Results For Everyone
Constable O’Brien was ecstatic at the response from the community but more than that, she was just so delighted to see how happy her team was able to make the Cook family. She said, “It was awesome seeing Sidney’s little face light up as we came over the ridge and up ahead we could see the tip sign… It was an awesome day for all of us and an absolute privilege to be a part of this journey.”
Sidney’s mom, Narelle, was so thrilled about the experience. She happily recounted, “Words will never be able to express how much we appreciate the assistance that the Bamaga Police gave us. I don’t think we will ever be able to thank them enough for what they have done.”
Another constable who helped out that day said that it was a welcome change for the police to be able to do something so positive for someone. “We take the lifestyle and scenery up here for granted sometimes so it was good to help someone who had come so far to see what we see every day,” he said.
The family was finally able to live out a dream they had been holding onto for fifteen years (since before Sidney was even born).
Once they were at Cape York, the family took some beautiful pictures, which they will cherish for years.
Constable O’Brien truly loved meeting the family and getting to make such a difference in their lives. In a statement, she said, “Sidney might be paralyzed from the waist down but he has a massive heart and an even bigger smile. He told us that he loves soccer and music but nothing compares to adventuring with his mum and dad.”
In the police world, where almost everything they do is shrouded in a negative light, helping out such a wonderful family and getting to take part in a heartwarming event like this would definitely have increased morale in the department, and thus the city.
Cerebral Palsy Positives
When people normally think about cerebral palsy, they think about how hard it is for the diagnosed person and their family. The disorder can often lead to pain and suffering, as well as monetary hardships on the family.
Sometimes, though, cerebral palsy can have unexpected positive outcomes for families, like in Sidney’s case. Kids with cerebral palsy are often hugely positive about their diagnoses. While it’s not common for their abilities to change, they learn to thrive.
Like Sidney, they’re able to live relatively normal lives and actually change the lives of those around them. People assume the worst about children born with birth injuries, but they can lead very happy lives.