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Brave little girl who wowed crowds at Alder Hey Christmas Lights Switch-on has been amazing everyone since the day she was born

3 months ago

By Janet Tansley

Brave little girl who wowed crowds at Alder Hey Christmas Lights Switch-on has been amazing everyone since the day she was born
Rubi-Mae McKeever wowed everyone at the Alder Hey Christmas Lights Switch-On

Rubi-Mae McKeever was diagnosed with a rare condition, her mum and dad, Hannah and James, say she’s been amazing everyone since the day she was born.

Virtually-blind Rubi-Mae McKeever wowed the crowds at this year’s Alder Hey Christmas Lights Switch-on with her tear-jerking singing performance of It Was On A Starry Night.

The brave nine-year-old was diagnosed with a rare condition which meant she was expected to spend much of the first 12 months of her life in hospital.

And yet such was her resilience and determination even then, she was in for only weeks.

“We were told that Rubi-Mae might be in and out of hospital for a year as she learned to cope with her condition,” says Hannah, 31, “but she was only in for a total of eight weeks and then allowed to come home. 

“She is amazing.”

Rubi-Mae (right) with Dr Ronx and little sister Lilli-Mae
Rubi-Mae (right) with Dr Ronx and little sister Lilli-Mae

James adds: “It’s incredible how someone so young can, and always has, shown so much spirit and positivity.

“Rubi-Mae never lets anything get her down. We don’t need baubles on a Christmas tree – Rubi-Mae has brought a sparkle to our lives from day one.”

Rubi-Mae, from Rock Ferry, was born with rare condition called Septo Optic Dysplasia which means she has very limited vision, and hypopituitarism which causes problems regulating her hormones.

She was diagnosed when she was just a few weeks old after being admitted to hospital because of feeding problems. Her body temperature dropped dangerously low along with the sugar and sodium in her blood, and it was soon noticed that there were problems with her eyes. 

Although her condition needs constant care and monitoring, Rubi-Mae has refused to let it stop her living life to the full.

Rubi-Mae turning on the lights with little sister Lilli-Mae, mum Hannah and dad James
Rubi-Mae turning on the lights with little sister Lilli-Mae, mum Hannah and dad James

She attends mainstream school where she has the support of an eye team who ensure her surroundings are safe and there are no trip hazards, and who encourage her to use visual aids and adapt work so she has the same learning and social opportunities as everyone else.

And, although she uses a cane outside her home, she can manage around the house with sound and touch.

Despite having many extra challenges in life, Rubi-Mae is learning braille and ‘doing really well’ – and she is passionate about singing, and dreams of one day being a famous star!

Hannah, a former hairdresser, and support worker James, 30, who also have Lilli-Mae, five – and a little boy due in March – explain: “Rubi-Mae has been in various talent competitions where she’s blown people away with her voice and her positive attitude; she’s reduced quite a few people to tears over the years.

“Her nan took her to a singing group when she was really young, and she’s been music orientated ever since.

“She sings and dances at Complete Works school in Bebington and she loves to listen to people like Michael Jackson and Lewis Capaldi, and watch musicals like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music; her favourite at the moment is Hairspray.

“We watch the films all together as a family although Rubi-Mae is mainly listening – her hearing is exceptional – and says she’d love to be a famous singer one day.”

Rubi-Mae with family and Consultant Dr Senniappan and Jen from Endocrinology team
Rubi-Mae with family and Consultant Dr Senniappan and Jen from Endocrinology team

Although her vision is limited, Rubi-Mae can see shadows as well and lights and colour, and so she was thrilled, says her mum, to be asked to switch on Alder Hey’s Christmas Lights, and meet the event host Dr Ronx from CBBC’s Operation Ouch!

She said on the night: “I’ve had so much fun at Alder Hey today. It’s an amazing place. I love singing, it makes me happy. I know a lot of children stay in the hospital over Christmas and I wanted to bring them a little bit of happiness through my singing.”

And she did – and does. Dr Senthil Senniappan, consultant paediatric endocrinologist at Alder Hey sees the schoolgirl on a regular basis, helping monitor her and stabilise her hormones.

Dr Senniappan, who was watching and applauding the little girl at the Lights Switch-on says: “It is always a delight to see Rubi-Mae, who is so energetic, delightful, and uplifting. 

“She always makes me laugh in the clinic and if I’m lucky, she will even sing me a song or two.”

Hannah says: “Seeing Rubi-Mae singing at Alder Hey was a reminder that there’s nothing she can’t do. To get her to where she is now is amazing.

“Alder Hey have always been so supportive and there for us, and Dr Senniappan is absolutely fantastic, and Rubi-Mae loves him.

“She was delighted to switch on the lights and to sing, and we were so proud of her; it was a massive achievement.”

James agrees: “When you ask Rubi-Mae what she wants to be when she grows up she always says she wants to be a famous singer (and a mum – she loves dolls and has more than 40 whose names she knows and she treats as her babies).  We just want her to be happy, like she makes us and all her family.

“Her favourite song is A Whole New World by Princess Jasmine in Aladdin, and she has brought a whole new world to us; and it’s just magical.”

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