A busy month with big sister Anna's birthday and visits to Paignton Zoo, Wells Cathedral, Kilve Beach, Otterhead Lakes, Bicton Gardens, Cheddar Gorge, Haynes Motor Museum - to name but a few, as well as two fishing trips. It's a hard life obviously!! So just to remind you all - whenever you see that phrase so often used in the media about people like our cool Oliver which describes them as: "suffering from Down Syndrome" DON'T BELIEVE IT!!! Oliver's not suffering - he's having a BALL!! :)
In July 2017 Oliver will celebrate his 21st Birthday. A grand and wonderful milestone. This set me (Ollie's mum) thinking after a bit of searching the internet I sent this letter to a very special person... :
Dear Mr Pawade,
You won't remember me. I am one of the hundreds of mothers over the years who sat before you as you patiently described the cardiac surgery you would be performing on my tiny baby the following day. After you had finished I said with tears in my eyes "You won't take any less care of him will you - because he's got Down Syndrome? I really need you to know that we absolutely love him more than anything and it's really important to me that you do absolutely everything and anything you can?" And you took my hand and said 'Goodness me no, I treat every one of my patients the same and every one receives the very best care I can possibly provide. I have operated on many babies with DS and I treat them no differently than any other child. Every child is precious." And I trusted you completely from that moment - and you didn't let me down!
That tiny poorly baby who was 3 months old when you operated on him in Bristol Children's Hospital in October 1996 and provided him with an ASD VSD and PDA repair, is now a very healthy young man who will be celebrating his 21st birthday in July this year. Approaching a milestone like a 21st birthday sets one thinking.... And I found myself wanting to find you to let you know just how amazing this young man is, who wouldn't be here were it not for you. Oliver is a photographer, a landscape and wildlife photographer. He appeared live on BBC's The One Show just over a year ago and in 2015 was also voted UK's National Role Model for Disability by the 'National Diversity Awards' that year. He has over 65,000 followers on facebook and receives orders for prints from ALL OVER THE WORLD through his website at www.oliverhellowell.com
In November 2015 he published the first ever book of photography by a person with Down Syndrome and we would love to be able to send you a copy as part of our marking the milestone of his 21st birthday this year.
Having searched for you across the amazing resource which is the internet - I found your write up about your personal experience of hand tremor and your decision to step down from surgery and also your commitment and passion for wildlife and tigers in particular. I think I may have even gasped a little when I saw that you were a bit of a wildlife photographer! Unfortunately Oliver has never had the opportunity to capture images of tigers but who knows where the years ahead may lead us.
I set up a charity within the first year of Oliver's life which has supported over 500 children and young people with DS and their families in the last 20 years and from which I stepped down last year. I now work independently - but I hope you can see and feel a little of the joy if you take a peek at www.wendyocarroll.com
So my dear Mr Pawade, I extend my deepest most heartfelt thanks that you were indeed the surgeon who operated on my tiny very poorly baby nearly 21 years ago, and if there is an address to which we could send a copy of Oliver's book that would be lovely.
I do hope that saying a big thankyou 21 years after the fact - isn't a bit too late...!!! :)
Very Best Wishes,
Wendy O'Carroll - the lady fortunate enough to be Oliver's mum
AND GUESS WHAT!! The wonderful Mr Pawade responded and wished to meet our amazing Oliver who he had not seen since he was a very poorly tiny baby struggling for life nearly 21 years ago. I think the image of their meeting here above - says everything. :) xxx
'God's own Country' is how Oliver describes Wales - as his friend Iolo Williams says! We went to Wales for a week in March and stayed in a beautifully remote cottage called Alltwinau. Oliver sat in wet fields of grass, perched on rocks beside waterfalls, stood in the rain (A LOT!), got snowed on, windblown, very cold hands, and all in all suffered quite appropriately for his art!! Oh And of course - Loved Every Bloomin' Minute! :)
"Mum I need another brother sister day" announced Oliver. He loves to spend a day out with his sister on her day off work - partly becasue he loves his sister and partly because he can usually manage to convince her that a meal out in a pub is definitely in order. Big sister Anna was more than happy to agree as it had been over a month since their last one, and she took him to Killerton House Gardens. It was a beautiful day and as always Anna made sure she took the most vital accessory required on a day out - which is of course her selfie stick. One of the seven hundred selfies taken on the day is here for your enjoyment... Oh and the other thing Anna is brilliant at is taking lots of pictures of Oliver taking pictures - and here in this facebook post she combined a few pictures of Oliver with the pictures he was taking at that very moment: https://www.facebook.com/OliverHellowellPhotographer/posts/660749384109521
How fortunate it is that I was able to produce two such talented and beautiful offspring :)
We have recently moved to a lovely village in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset and are fortunate enough to have a back garden which is a bit more like a field. BRILLIANT!! So we are making it a wildlife area and intend to encourage as much wildlife as possible. We all helped to put up a shed which is to be a photography 'hide' and some great pictures have already been caught with an example of a beautiful blue-tit here as proof. Also Here to make you smile is a very speedy capture of our shed raising skills!!!
You may have to copy and paste the link I don't seem to be able to make it link directly... Unfortunately IT simply isn't one of my special skills - but Oliver has just told me I'm gorgeous and it doesn't matter - so I've decided not to worry about it :)
Greylake RSPB Reserve out on the Somerset Levels is a great place to go to see lots of wildfowl at this time of year. Oliver wanted to capture the ducks flying and he got some great shots of the sky full of ducks and was very pleased to have captured them crisp and sharp. As we walked around he also caught a picture of his Mother jumping off a wooden beam. Oliver has always jumped off things, when he was younger he used to call out "Ready to... LEAP!!" just before he leapt off whichever, rock, tree-stump, set of steps, ledge, wall etc had taken his fancy. I was frequently asked if his need to jump off stuff was related somehow to his having Down Syndrome.... well ERM no!!!! It's entirely down to his mad mother I'm afraid!! Enjoy every moment! :)
Oliver loves to go fishing with his father, even if it's a cold, damp and dull December Day! He organises all his magazines, bird books and ipad in his 'bivvy' tent, and enjoys several bacon and cheese sandwiches, cold chicken and cups of hot chocolate to keep him going (it's a hard life!) He's always pleased to catch a fish - and on this occasion he wasn't disappointed and caught a reasonably sized Carp. He also spends much time leaving his father to watch the rods and poles whilst he goes off wandering around the lake or fishery and takes hundreds of pictures. As his mum I enjoy going through all the images he brings home, because in many ways, I then go on his walk with him, - I see every single thing he noticed as he walked around and took his pictures. :)
November 2016 saw Oliver's 5th Annual Exhibition and as usual lots of lovely folk came from far and wide to meet Oliver and see his work. The weather wasn't too bad (we've had floods in the past!) and so it was a joy to see over 200 people coming to be inspired and encouraged by both the photographer himself, and by so many examples of his work. Oliver is always very proud of his exhibition and looks forward to it every year. This year was yet again a great success and Oliver had to sign lots of copies of his hardback book and pose for a few selfies with his fans!! At the end as we spent a rather long time packing everything away Oliver said "Phew - That went well didn't it! I think I'm ready for a holiday and a takeaway now actually..."
At least once a week Oliver says "C'mon mum - let's go for our drive around and see what we can find!" And so off we go, with a camera and a packed luinch, to see what we can see. We often stop for a walk and a little explore somewhere and Oliver always finds things, scenes and places he wants to take pictures of. He also shouts "STOP!" as we're driving along as soon as he sees something he wants to capture - which can give me a series of nervous breakdowns as I try to always remember to check my rear-view mirror before engaging in an emergency stop just because Oliver has spotted a really cool fern growing in the hedgerow!! :)
I do however love these times we share, and it's not just about the taking of pictures, it's also about the "ooooh look at THIS!" and the "Oh WOW that's cool isn't it mum" and the "JUST LOOK AT THESE!" when he proudly shows me on the viewfinder at the back of the camera, the picures he's just taken. It's about our singing along very loudly to the music we're playing (possibly a little too loudly...) as we drive, and laughing as we do so. It's about time spent together - enjoying every bloomin' moment... :)
The other evening we had a sudden 'Ooh let's go chase a sunset!' moment. So off we went and drove onto the top of the Quantock Hills here in Somerset. Oliver was very organised and got out of the car and decided where he wanted to be, set up the tripod and camera, took a few practice shots to make sure he had the piece of sky he wanted... and we sat with a drink and a packet of crisps and we waited.. This image is his favourite of the bunch. :)