RUGBY legend Eric Miller is on the charge again — to see the girl he saved from an orphanage walk unaided for the first time.
The former Ireland star and his wife Jenny fell in love with three-year-old Nisha when he was coaching in Sri Lanka.
And after years of fighting to adopt her and bring her home, they are now hoping to secure her a potentially life-changing operation in the United States.
Nisha has closed lip schizencephaly, a form of cerebral palsy which was being largely unattended to when Jenny began volunteering at the Daya Nivasa orphanage in Kandy city.
Jenny, who is also mum to Hannah, recalled: “We arrived in August 2014, and at the end of September the church where our daughter went to Sunday school mentioned an orphanage.
“I thought volunteering would be a great opportunity. I knew it was an orphanage for disabled children but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up adopting one.
“I walked in the room and there was about 200 people, and I straightaway noticed Nisha sitting in a chair with splints in her legs.
“When she saw me she put her arms outstretched.
“I held her and it was instant maternal feeling. I was crying and thinking I couldn’t leave her here, she was mine. I had a child so I knew that attachment, her smell, everything.
“Within ten minutes I was trying to think of a way to adopt her. I couldn’t forget her. It was like I left my own child there.”
Jenny took Eric to meet Nisha and he quickly came around to the adoption idea.
“I woke up one morning with an iPad in my face and he told me he had spent the night praying and Googling.
“He found a family in America who adopted nine special needs children and he said, ‘If they can have nine, we can have one’.”
They made the application in December 2014, and for the next 15 months — until the adoption was formalised in March last year — there was nightly heartache as they said goodbye to Nisha at the orphanage.
Now back in Ireland, Jenny said Nisha is thriving, but has realised she is different than the other kids.
“She’s a miracle. She’s five, loves school, she has a bit of an Irish accent and actually got her citizenship four weeks ago.
“And she is starting to recognise her disability. Before, in the orphanage, she was one of the more mobile ones.
“She is wondering now why God made the other children able to walk and not her. Her lower legs were neglected for four years. They did the best they could but she needed physio. She can walk with a frame but not without it.
“I think it will affect her mentally if we don’t get her walking.”
Jenny and Eric — who won 48 Irish caps between 1997 and 2005 and briefly lined out for the Dublin footballers — are now fundraising for surgery at a top centre for cerebral palsy kids, St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri.
The operation will cost up to €70,773, but has changed the lives of dozens of Irish sufferers.
Credits: The Irish Sun – TheSun.ie