Caitlin Ronan is a vivacious teenager with a passion for singing and an entrepreneurial spirit. She also has chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a progressive neurological disease.
At the age of eight, Caitlin was able to walk and do most things herself but over the past 8 years the disease has progressed – she now has no movement from the neck down. Caitlin relies on the help of her parents and carers, including when she needs to study, access her computer and keep in touch with friends. For the past 3 years the majority of Caitlin’s time has been spent in bed. Communicating over the internet is crucial to her social life.
Caitlin says “I am still a normal teenager who loves to search the internet and chat with friends on Facebook”. Up until now Caitlin has used an iPad but can only control it by verbally instructing her mum, which means she has no privacy when communicating with her friends. Having alternative access to a computer would provide Caitlin with the freedom to study, research and participate in exams with complete autonomy for the very first time! An exciting prospect as she begins studying for her A levels.
After trialling the Grid Pad Eye 13 eye gaze system with the help of Gemma, a member of the Smartbox team, Caitlin says “I just loved what I could do on my own and really did not want to give it back”. Caitlin has recently talked on BBC Radio 5 Live about her condition, her new device and having the independence she craves. In what we are fast learning as typical Caitlin fashion she goes on to explain how important it is for her to be able to give her mum more time to do what she needs to do.
In a colossal effort Caitlin has raised nearly £17,000 in just one month, after initially aiming to reach £7,000 to pay for her own system and accessories. Following the successful appeal she now wants to raise more money to help others in a similar situation to her. Her new target is £24,000.
You can donate to Caitlin’s Go Fund Me page at https://www.gofundme.com/2y2zba7w.
You can find out more about Caitlin’s eye gaze system here.
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