“He’s got this amazing personality and still lights up a room,” - mother of brave and inspiring Cringleford boy who has turned 18
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016
It was a day the parents of a brave young boy thought they might never see.
Elliot Furlong, was born with a chromosomal abnormality which triggered a catalogue of debilitating conditions and left his parents not knowing if he would be able to walk, or even survive.
But the former winner of the Brave Child of the Year category in the Norwich Evening News's Local Heroes awards, who spent much of his first two years of life in hospital, has now started his journey into adulthood – having just turned 18.
His proud mum Sam said it was a 'bit of a shock' to see her son turn 18 after everything he and the rest of the family had been through. She said: 'We weren't sure when we had him whether he was going to live. We didn't look too far ahead. And to see him now, at 18, is unbelievable.
'He's just got this amazing personality and he still lights up a room.
'He doesn't let anything get him down and just lives for today and the moment and is really happy in his life.'
Elliot is a pupil at the Hall School in St Faith's Road, which specialises in teaching pupils with significant and complex needs.
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Mrs Furlong, 48, who lives at Cringleford, said Elliot wanted to mark his birthday by having a beer.
She said: 'He couldn't wait to have his first beer. He woke up at 5.30am and thought he was going to be given a beer.
'I told him you can't go to school saying you've had a beer!'
He didn't have too long to wait though, as Mrs Furlong agreed to make him a shandy to go with his birthday tea.
During his childhood Elliot went to Florida to take part in an intensive Dolphin Human Therapy (DHT) programme aimed at improving his speech and confidence.
His improvements continued after the family took ownership of a Hungarian gun dog called Ruby which Mrs Furlong described as 'the making of Elliot' and helped continue to bring on his speech as he spoke to his 'best buddy' all the time.
And when he was not at home with his family, including siblings Hollie, 22, Toby, 12, and Grace, seven, he loved nothing better than hitting the open roads of Norfolk and Suffolk with the East Coast Truckers, who helped give disadvantaged children special days out to places like Pleasurewood Hills and the Suffolk Wildlife Park.
Elliot, who once decided to forgo presents for his seventh birthday so he could hand cash over to the truckers charity instead, is now too old to go out with the charity but has found a new passion in the Proclaimers Church in Roundtree Way.
The teenager, who attends with his father, Carl, and his new partner, has started working there and welcomes everyone into the venue, providing them with a big smile on arrival and when they leave.
Mrs Furlong said the church was now a 'big, big part' of Elliot's life. He hopes to go to Norwich City College next year after Hall School.
Mrs Furlong said: 'It's incredible to get to 18. It's a milestone but he's still my baby. He was only five pounds when he was born and look at him now: he's a man. But he's still my baby, whatever his age.'