Mark (7) can't lift his schoolbag because of arthritis... but has been waiting years for a physio
This little boy, who cannot lift a schoolbag because he suffers from chronic arthritis, has been waiting for years for physiotherapy.
Seven-year-old Mark Norton enjoys playing football and hanging out with his friends, but he suffers from the often crippling condition.
Mark, from Caragh, Kildare, is one of 1,200 children nationwide who suffer from the biggest cause of childhood disability in Ireland.
However, his condition is all the more painful because of his long wait for physiotherapy.
His mother, Lorna, who is from Dublin, told the Herald that the HSE does not have a rheumatology physiotherapist in the Caragh area.
Although Mark was assessed when he was five and was told he needed the specialised physio, the service has never been provided.
In the meantime, Lorna and her husband, Gareth (both 39), have to take Mark to a regular physiotherapist.
The couple, who both work in the public service and have two other sons, Conor (9) and five-year-old Emmet, are calling on the HSE to provide more help for Mark.
"He looks like a very normal little boy to all our neighbours and friends, but they don't see him screaming in pain," said Mrs Norton. "It's just very difficult. He's waiting two years and there's no sign of it coming.
"He requires a rheumatologist - it can't just be a normal physio, because they can do more damage than good.
"But because Kildare doesn't have one, he's just left to rot."
Mark's condition means he cannot lift his schoolbag, is limited in how long he can play football and his ability to move changes day to day.
New research from Arthritis Ireland shows that Ireland has one of the lowest numbers of rheumatologists in Europe.
Lorna fears Mark's condition will worsen unless more services come on stream.
"We were on holidays recently and he was in the swimming pool. The next day he wasn't able to move and had to be wheeled in a buggy," she said.
"It's just really hard to be constantly fighting for services and watching your child in pain and not being able to do anything about it.
"Every professional we have met has been wonderful, but it's just getting to meet them - that's where the problem is.
"The system is so slow and doesn't deal effectively with these children.
"They are just left literally waiting in agony."