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Safari park treat boosts Joe

THERE were times during the last 19 months when Caroline Grant and her partner Kev Birkenhead feared their son Joe Grant would not survive his injuries from an horrific car crash.

THERE were times during the last 19 months when Caroline Grant and her partner Kev Birkenhead feared their son Joe Grant would not survive his injuries from an horrific car crash.

But after surviving a brain haemorrhage and temporary blindness, having a tracheotomy and learning to walk for the second time, Joe celebrated his third birthday on Saturday with a trip to Knowsley Safari Park.

Caroline, now 23, was 16 weeks pregnant when a boy racer spun out of control and slammed into her Ford Fiesta on the Overleigh roundabout in October 2004.

She lost the baby, a boy she and Kev named Connor, and had to be cut free from the car, sustaining two broken legs and a shattered kneecap that still now require operations.

Joe, who spent four months in intensive care, has been discharged from specialist care at Pendlebury Children's Hospital in Manchester and continues physiotherapy at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

He is back at his nursery, loves to sing and dance and is a big Bob the Builder fan.

'They have said that he is progressing well,' says Caroline. 'They are keeping an eye on his mobility and his balance because when he is going up steps he has to hold onto things and his speech isn't quite up to the normal level of a three-year-old but theythinkhewillbeokbythetimehe starts school.'

Caroline is also still undergoing physiotherapy, having had an operation in January to shorten her left femur to be the same length as her right leg, which was left slightly shorter by the crash, giving her a limp. Next January she will have to have a further operation to remove the last pins and metal from her leg.

A keen artist, she is currently studying for a maths GCSE so she can train to be an art teacher.

She is also hoping to move out of her parents' house in Chester back to Alpraham near Tarporley, where she and Joe were living before the crash.

Caroline and Joe travelled to Manchester this week to launch a £20m appeal for The New Children's Hospital Appeal, an amalgamation of Pendlebury and Booth Hall Children's Hospitals.

The new children's hospital in central Manchester will serve the North West and, when it opens in 2009, will be the largest children's hospital in the UK.

Caroline has nothing but praise for the hospital staff and said the new facilities will improve their care even further.

'The play specialists in particular were really good with Joe and always made sure someone was there with him.

'It was heart-breaking having to leave him on his own but whenever we went there was someone with him keeping him entertained.

'They are now going to have parents' accommodation at the new hospital so parents can stay nearby. It will be so great for parents who want to stay there to be with their children.'

Joe has already taken steps to help the hospital towards their target - he was taken in a pushchair on a sponsored walk up Moel Famau last year, raising a total of £2,000 for Pendlebury and the Countess of Chester hospitals.

He and Caroline joined Bob the Builder this week to launch Bob's Big Balloon Race, the appeal's first major fundraising event.

Supporters can take part in the race by making a donation for a balloon to be released at the Trafford Centre on Wednesday, May 31. The owner of the furthest travelling balloon will win £100.

For details, call 0161 276 4522 or visit www.newchildrenshospitalappeal.org.uk

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