Boy who can’t eat or speak has seen his life transformed by gaming

Mikey’s favourite game is Fortnite (Picture: PA Real Life)

A mum of an eight-year-old with a mystery syndrome has shared how his love of technology has had a positive impact on his life.

Chevonne Newlands, 39, and George Strachan, 34, have seen their son, Mikey Strachan, battle through surgeries since he was a baby. 

Mikey, who cannot eat or speak, was first given an iPad when he was in hospital as a one-year-old – to distract him from having his bloods taken. 

Chevonne said: ‘We needed to use it as distraction but, the moment I put the screen on, he was completely mesmerised and that really changed the experience.

‘From that moment, he just started being a whizz with it. Within the next few days he had learnt the code to type in and could use it better than us.’

Chevonne and George also noticed their son was particularly good at gaming when he played consoles in hospital as a two-year-old. 

Baby Mikey in hospital. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Baby Mikey in hospital (Picture: PA Real Life)

Mikey as a baby. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Mikey can’t absorb food through his stomach and doesn’t have a voice (Picture: PA Real Life)


Mikey in action (Picture: PA Real Life)

Since then his love of gaming and technology has kept growing. 

In January 2020, Mikey asked for a PlayStation 5 (PS5) through Make-A-Wish UK – something his parents describe as being a ‘godsend.’

Now, his favourite game is Fortnite. 

‘He is an absolute whizz and a pro at it,’ adds Chevonne.

Mikey with the family dog, Peppa. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Mikey with the family dog, Peppa (Picture: PA Real Life)

Little Mikey in hospital. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Doctors are still investigating his condition (Picture: PA Real Life)

Mikey in a hospital bed. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

He’s undergone many surgeries (Picture: PA Real Life)

Mikey’s condition means he cannot absorb food through his stomach and does not have a voice.

Over the years, he’s had a tracheostomy – to create an opening in the throat for tubes to help with breathing – as well as a tongue reduction operation performed at Great Ormand Street.

Chevonne said: ‘Lots of people are looking into his condition but they don’t know what it is.

‘We’re in a worldwide gene study and he’s had so many genetic tests done. They know he has some sort of syndrome, but they don’t know what it is.

‘He’s had surgery to look down his airway quite a lot and a lot of investigative surgeries.

‘There have just been so many – we must be in the hundreds.

‘We used to count them all up to the exact number, but it’s just got to an unbelievable level now.’

Mika and Skye with Mikey. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Mikey with sisters Mika and Skye (Picture: PA Real Life)

Mikey with his mum Chevonne, dad George, sisters Mika and Skye and the family dog, Peppa. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Mikey with his mum, dad and sisters (Picture: PA Real Life)

Now Mikey uses a ventilator to help with his breathing and communicates via Makaton signs and symbols, British Sign Language and a talking machine that speaks his typed words out loud.

Chevonne adds that gaming has truly transformed Mikey’s life and has helped so much during lockdown.

She said: ‘Mikey started playing racing and football games at about three.

‘But once we introduced him to Fortnite, at home at about six years old, it became his game of choice.

‘He now plays with professional YouTubers.’

She’s also urging people to donate to Make-A-Wish – to help other children. 

Chevonne said: ‘Because of Mikey’s medical needs, all of his options and choices are taken out of his hands.

‘With this wish, it was all about Mikey and what he wanted. He felt very special because he got to choose, and it was all his decision.

‘For someone like Mikey that loves gaming, it has been magical. I would recommend to anyone to donate.’

Mikey in hospital. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Gaming has helped him through the pandemic (Picture: PA Real Life)

Mikey playing his PS5. PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Mikey playing his PS5 (Picture: PA Real Life)

Child psychotherapist and Make-A-Wish advisor, Lia Younes, stresses that gaming can aid a child’s wellbeing.

She said: ‘Having a critical illness can hinder a child’s ability to engage in play, particularly with their peers.

‘This has been particularly challenging during the pandemic when so much more has been taken away from them.

‘Thankfully, virtual games have offered them a safe space to access all the benefits of play and helped them to stay connected.’

Make-A-Wish is launching ‘Wish 100 Week’ from July 19 – 23 – a fundraising campaign that unites gamers and industry giants to raise enough money in a week to grant 100 wishes.

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