Race against the clock to raise £80,000 for 'determined' Harper's chance to learn to walk
PUBLISHED: 18:30 13 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:12 14 April 2019
A race against the clock to get a Norwich toddler access to a life-changing operation which could help her learn to walk is becoming more urgent with every day that passes.
Harper Sharrocks was born prematurely at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) on September 1, 2016.
But if she had been born 30 minutes later - and if it were not for her mother’s insistence something was wrong - she would not have made it.
At just 4lb, Harper, now two, had been hit with a one-in-40,000 chance condition called True Knot, starving her brain of oxygen as her umbilical cord became knotted.
And she was later diagnosed with severe hypoglycaemia, hyperinsulinism and cerebral palsy.
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It means part of her brain did not form properly, and her parents Natasha and Steve Sharrocks, of Lone Barn Road in Norwich, were told she would most likely never walk unaided.
Two and a half years later Harper is defying expectations - walking with the help of bars and a walker. But for Mr and Mrs Sharrocks the goal is still an operation called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).
Harper could potentially have the operation on the NHS when she turns four, but doctors are currently saying they are unable to refer her without first trying four rounds of Botox treatment - which would take two years.
So the couple are forced to look for options abroad and try to raise £80,000 for the procedure in the USA, before Harper becomes too old - or her condition too severe - for it to work.
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“The earlier you get it the better,” said Mr Sharrocks, because as Harper’s legs grow her muscles remain tight, preventing her from walking.
The bid started a year ago, and there has been an outpouring of support from the community, including big names such as the wrestling family the Knights, who recently featured in film Fighting with my Family.
Mr Sharrocks, 32, said: “It kind of goes in bursts. So we got to a point where it wasn’t doing anything and we thought we weren’t getting anywhere.”
But he said as soon as people met Harper, they fell in love with her and wanted to help. He joked: “The one thing she has going for her is she’s cute.”
However the couple said it was a constant struggle trying to balance working, with caring for their daughter, and also running a fundraising campaign.
So they were thankful for support from big names like the Knights, who put on a wrestling event to raise money for Harper and promised to keep supporting the family.
MORE: Norfolk man does burpees for more than two hours to raise money for girl with Cerebral Palsy
And the family even had a video call from the family’s most famous member, Paige, who called Harper a “princess”.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Mrs Sharrocks, a medical secretary at NNUH. “But they reignited the fight for us.”
It’s not just famous faces supporting the family, as smaller bids all add up - such as £1,000 recently raised by Costessey Sports Club.
“She is definitely our motivation,” Mrs Sharrocks said. “She knows eight little signs in sign language now, she knows the context of things, and nodding is new. It’s weird how such a little person can motivate you so much. It makes you realise your problems are nothing compared to hers.”
MORE: Pub’s 24-hour dartathon to fund Harper’s vital operation
Mr Sharrocks now wants to campaign for better aftercare for parents, especially when their babies are on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), like Harper was for 50 days.
He described a situation where community midwives would not visit the family at hospital, so they arranged to see them at his mother’s house.
“We were at the hospital all the time and they won’t see you there. But when she arrived she said ‘where’s the baby then?’ We had said she was still in hospital and I had to ask her to look at Tash’s stitches.”
And they wanted to see mother’s whose babies had to be taken away for care kept separately to those allowed to have their baby with them, to prevent the pain that caused.
Mrs Sharrocks still gets flashbacks, and is unable to walk down a corridor she remembers as the one she had to use to go see Harper. She said: “I was hanging on that corridor’s walls. I’m now too scared to walk down it.”
MORE: Father cycles 150 miles to raise money for daughter’s life-changing operation
Mrs Sharrocks, who has PTSD after her traumatic birth experience, said: “It’s the thought of other parents going through it, you think it leaves but it doesn’t. It’s the smell of the bleach, it never leaves you.”
But the couple continue to draw strength from their daughter.
“Determined is the word for Harper,” Mr Sharrocks said.
“She’s feisty,” Mrs Sharrocks added. “We’re so proud.”