Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Former resident praises community support

Former Rochester resident Diana O’Brien has thanked the community for supporting a fundraiser to help her son Banjo.

ELAINE COONEY November 15, 2012 4:39am

Banjo O’Brien with mum Diana at the Colbinabbin fundraiser last month.

Former Rochester resident Diana O’Brien (nee Cheatley) recently raised $20,000 for her son who is suffering from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

The money, which was raised from a trivia night at Colbinabbin hall, will go towards Therasuit Therapy and weekly therapies for two-year-old Banjo.

Banjo is lucky to be alive after being born at 24 weeks’ gestation.

While floods ravaged Rochester and Brisbane, Diane was haemorrhaging in a Townsville hospital and Banjo had to be delivered urgently.

Diana was in Cairns when she started bleeding, so the Royal Flying Doctors airlifted her to Townsville.

‘‘The first few weeks were a blur,’’ she said.

Suffering placenta praevia (when the placenta is attached to the uterine wall close or covering the cervix), Diana was under anaesthetic when Banjo, who weighed just 662g, was born.

Diana was gravely ill and had three blood transfusions, while Banjo’s life hung in the balance.

‘‘We were unsure of what the future may hold,’’ Diana said.

‘‘There was a 60 per cent chance of survival.’’

That day, Diana saw Banjo in the neonatal intensive care unit.

‘‘They tell you he is alive, but you know there is a very long road ahead,’’ she said.

Diana stayed at Ronald McDonald House in Townsville for 95 days.

‘‘It had an awesome room, our own cooking facilities and communal area,’’ she said.

‘‘I spent all my time in the hospital or sleeping.’’

While Banjo was in intensive care, he suffered three life-threatening infections and his family feared the worst.

After 40 days, he came off his ventilator but he doctors said he had a high risk of cerebral palsy due to being so premature and the lack of oxygen throughout and after his birth.

Banjo needed oxygen and a feeding tube for 130 days while in hospital.

‘‘Being born a microprem (less than 26 weeks and less than 800g), he had a high risk of acquired brain injury,’’ Diana said.

In December last year, Banjo was diagnosed with evolving spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which affects his arms and legs.

‘‘He can’t hold his bottle, toys or hold food to his mouth,’’ Diana said.

‘‘He can’t walk, crawl or sit.’’

Banjo is undergoing intense physiotherapy called the Anat Baniel method, which kick-starts the nervous system and creates a pathway from the body to the brain.

‘‘There are so many different methods, but they are all very expensive and a lot of them are based in America,’’ Diana said.

The younger the child is treated, the better the outcome, she said.

Banjo smiles and laughs and is fully aware of what is happening, but he struggles to move, according to Diana.

‘‘He is trying so hard,’’ Diana said.

When Banjo completed two sessions of Anat Baniel therapy, Diana said his muscles had relaxed.

‘‘After the first session, he fell asleep with his hands clasped,’’ she said.

‘‘That was a bit cool.

‘‘He could not move from his back to his stomach. Now he rolls from his back to his stomach randomly.’’

His head was also more controlled, she said.

The money from the fundraiser will allow Banjo to start Therasuit Therapy next year.

More than 200 people attended the trivia night, organised by Diana, her mum Barbara Cheatley, sister Narelle Robertson and friends and family who collected donations.

Diana praised business owners in Rochester, Echuca, Lockington, Kyabram, Colbinabbin and Bendigo for their generous donations, as well as Robyn and Shane Ryan for helping to set up the Colbinabbin hall for the event.

You can follow Banjo’s journey on Facebook at ‘See Banjo Run’.

To donate towards Banjo’s therapies, bank details are on the Facebook page or email Diana at

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