DESPITE suffering health problems since birth, no-one can wipe the smile off little Samuel O’Connor’s face.
His parents, Tina Ashton and Martin O’Connor, have been determined to give him the best start in life, forking out £2,000 for a special helmet to treat a condition known as flat head syndrome.
Now the 10-month-old’s parents are calling on the NHS to do more to help families whose children suffer from the condition, which is flattening to the back and side of the skull.
Miss Ashton, 34, from Wesham, said: “Sam has been wearing the helmet for just over a month now and the results have been amazing. He was a little bit wary of it at first but he got used to it very quickly. It doesn’t bother him. He could be really cranky but he isn’t.”
Samuel was diagnosed in June after he developed a nasty cold and conjunctivitis and his mum took him to a GP.
But the doctor also discovered Sam’s head wasn’t the shape it should have been and explained if it didn’t improve by the time Sam was 18 months old, it was likely to stay that way.
Following a breech birth, Sam was born with a tight neck muscle known as torticollis, which causes the head to tilt to one side.
The condition is being treated with physiotherapy, but it means the little boy’s head is often positioned in one direction, causing it to flatten on one side. The GP suggested making an appointment with specialist facility, SteeperClinic, in Leeds, to gauge the severity of Sam’s condition.
When the family visited the clinic in July, tests revealed the asymmetry of Sam’s head was 23.3mm – 12mm is classed as a severe case.
The treatment needed meant fitting Sam with a helmet, costing £2,000, which needs to be worn for 23 hours a day, over six months.
The NHS say there is currently not enough evidence to say whether a helmet will make any improvement to a baby’s head shape but Miss Ashton says she has seen the results with Sam already and believes the NHS should help families with funding.
She added: “Paying for the treatment has been a struggle. With cases of the condition on the rise, I feel the NHS should offer funding. We have borrowed the money from Sam’s grandparents until we can pay them back.
“The NHS has said there has not been enough research into the benefits of wearing a helmet to warrant them subsidising it. They have also argued the condition is a cosmetic procedure rather than a medical one, but I feel if treatment is available to naturally help correct a condition for a young child, then it is surely worth the investment.”