PRECIOUS MEMORIES TO CHERISH: Queensland Zoo’s lemurs are a favourite for Miller O’Flynn and his mum, Sophie Cashen.
PRECIOUS MEMORIES TO CHERISH: Queensland Zoo’s lemurs are a favourite for Miller O’Flynn and his mum, Sophie Cashen. Erica Henderson

Zoo puts on what might be boy's last birthday

ON FRIDAY night Sophie Cashen stood bravely and told doctors she was taking her son, Miller O'Flynn, out of hospital to attend his sixth birthday party yesterday at Queensland Zoo Wildlife HQ because it might be his last one.

The birthday party was a superhero party in Miller's honour as the whole family believes the kid is a super hero.

Miller, who was already battling a variety of problems including autism and intellectual impairment, was recently diagnosed with terminal neurodegeneration.

When Sophie received that diagnosis only three months ago, she shook uncontrollably, unable to comprehend the reality her son was being diagnosed with an incurable disease.

Sophie says it is a debilitating condition that results in progressive degeneration and death of nerve cells, ending with the loss of the person's life.

"When I was told all this, at first I really did not understand what it all meant," she said.

"I just asked what does that mean for Miller, and the doctor took a while to answer because she knew it hadn't really sunk in for me yet. She knew that I did not realise at that point this was something that was going to take my son's life.

"I started shaking - it wasn't registering and I did not want it to because it was just something that I did not want to hear."

Doctors are unable to tell Sophie what to expect with the deterioration rate in the disease and Miller's life expectancy.

Miller is the first person in Australia to be diagnosed with microdegeneration in chromosome 17.

When they learnt of Miller's diagnosis, the team at Queensland Zoo Wildlife HQ believed the whole family needed love, support and relief, so threw the zoo gates wide open to them.

Zoo owner Julie Seabrook said when Miller took a turn for the worst the staff wanted to help the whole family in some way.

"Miller came for a private visit and when we saw how he responded, we here at Queensland Zoo Wildlife HQ thought the party would be just the perfect way to creating some precious memories for them to share."

Zookeeper Kristi Nageli said was unbelievable to watch Miller's interaction with the animals

"When he arrived he was hot and restless - he just couldn't sit still and was very unsettled and obviously wasn't feeling very well," she said.

"When we took him inside with the lemurs there was this instant transformation.

"There was an immediate change, from a restless, anxious child to this calm and peaceful young man.

"He was so happy. He took the bananas and just started feeding the lemurs."

You can follow Miller's page on Facebook - Miller's journey with neurodegeneration.

Anyone wanting to make the family's life a little easier should go to

A profitable partnership

A profitable partnership

East Ballina Lions and Ballina Fair partner to support farmers

Keeping the heart beating

Keeping the heart beating

Bike ride to raise AED awareness

Skatefest going ahead

Skatefest going ahead

Fair Go Skatefest to run again this year

Local Partners