All parents want the best for their child, but in the case of Toni Mcgoverny-Stewart from East Lothian, whose daughter Helena was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid on the brain, nothing could have been more imperative than aiding her development and ensuring a consistent routine.
Toni explains: “Due to hydrocephalus, Helena has had some minimal brain damage causing a delay in her physical ability. At 16 months, she could not stand, walk or talk. Last year, as the hydrocephalus advanced, she also required emergency surgery. As scary as this was, it was a life-changing event for our family, as a short time after surgery Helena managed to stand!”
Recognising the need to maintain a normal routine and introduce activities to aid Helena’s physical development, Toni researched her options. Having always been nervous around water and not a strong swimmer herself, she was keen to introduce Helena to swimming as young as possible.
After much research, Helena was enrolled on her first Turtle Tots baby swimming class at The Quay in Musselburgh, taking her first dip at just six weeks old.
“I always wanted to make sure my children were confident in the water and able to get themselves out of difficulties if they ever arose.” Toni adds, “I wanted somewhere Helena could learn lifesaving skills in a fun, welcoming environment. Thankfully she loved Turtle Tots from day one!”
Turtle Tots is an award-winning, specialist progressive baby and toddler swim programme, with proven social, physical and emotional benefits for participants.
Karina Reinhardt, Licensee of Turtle Tots Edinburgh & East Lothian, explains, “A weekly swim improves a baby’s cardiovascular system and builds strength. It can aid early walking, coordination and fine motor skills. Babies get to interact socially in a safe and secure environment plus develop language skills, as well as becoming confident and safe in the water.”
Routine has become essential for Helena and, now aged two, Helena continues to swim with Turtle Tots.
“Not only am I now more confident in the water,” Toni explains, “but the changes we’ve seen in Helena have been amazing. With a muscle weakness in her left side, Helena wears a splint, but the swimming has strengthened these muscles and helped to advance her walking.
She is encouraged by her teacher Juliana, and her sense of achievement in the classes is so important. When you have a child, who is frequently in and out of hospital you lose touch with people. But the children in Helena’s Turtle Tots group have been together since they were born. Turtle Tots has been with us throughout this difficult journey, the good parts and the bad. The swimming has not only assisted Helena’s development, but also kept her happy. I couldn’t ask for more!”
“Swimming is such an incredible activity to do with children and seeing just how much Helena has benefitted is so rewarding” says Karina. “In the water, Helena is weightless, so can be more mobile, floating and paddling easily alongside the other children. It is a joy to see her splashing about without a care in the world.”
Throughout October, Turtle Tots was busy splashing for cash to raise vital funds for Global’s Make Some Noise campaign, improving the lives of disadvantaged children and young people across the UK. Helena was the top fundraiser in Edinburgh, with a fantastic £800 and the Turtle Tots across Scotland raised an impressive £15,000 of the overall £54,000 national total.
Toni adds: “This event was very emotional for us. Splash Some Noise supports a lot of small Scottish charities that most have probably never heard of. For us, those charities are a god send. Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland, The Yard and Kindred, to name a few, support families with disabled children on a daily basis. We have received their help first hand and want to do more to help small, often forgotten, charities like these.”