New wheelchair transforms young Bulldogs fan

30 May 2014

Jihad is 15 years old; when asked if he likes the Bulldogs he laughs and said, “Yes, I like the Bulldogs and so does the whole family. All my brothers play football. I wish I could play too.”

There are lots of activities Jihad says he would love to do but is restricted by his rare neurological condition, Ataxia Telangiectasia (A-T).

“It makes me sad because I could do them when I was younger; I used to be able to kick a ball with my twin brother and run around with him. Now I just sit and watch my brothers playing football,” said Jihad.

A-T is a rare childhood neurological progressive disease that causes degeneration in the part of the brain that controls muscles, movement and speech. A-T symptoms are a lack of balance, delayed development, uncontrollable movement and slurred speech. Children with A-T are eventually confined to a wheelchair and currently there is no cure or way to slow down this progressive debilitating disease. Treatment can only partially alleviate some symptoms as they appear.

Jihad is one of up to 400,000 children and up to 2 million Australians affected by a rare disease.

His condition had deteriorated to the point where he was no longer able to walk without falling all the time. A new standing power wheelchair was the best option.

The Canterbury League Club teamed up with the Steve Waugh Foundation – who supports children and young adults affected by a rare disease – to approve a grant application to cover the gap of $20,000 for Jihad’s new ‘transformer’ wheelchair.

The new power chair, with a special standing function, has allowed Jihad to be independent and manoeuvre around without aid. He can drive around while standing and reach for things up high on his own which he has never been able to do before.

“I want to thank the Steve Waugh Foundation and Canterbury League for their support because if it wasn't for the funding, I would not be in an electric wheelchair. Because of your support, you have allowed me to be able to stand up tall and feel like I can achieve anything!” said Jihad.