Boy, 6, with cerebral palsy takes first steps after family raise 50,000 for life-changing surgery in America
Operation involves cutting the nerves in the spine to release the spasticity (tension) in AJs muscles



09:10 GMT, 18 June 2012

A little boy born with cerebral palsy has taken his first steps just days after a life-changing operation in America.

AJ Tighe, from Newton Heath, Manchester, was unable to walk unaided because of his condition but less than three weeks after a pioneering operation in Missouri he has defied the odds by bravely taking his first strides.

Members of the public helped six-year-old AJ’s family raise the 50,000 needed for the four-hour operation following a 10-month fundraising campaign. His mother Leeanne, who is terrified of heights, even managed a 300ft bungee jump as part of their mission.


AJ Tighe

AJ Tighe

Standing tall: AJ Tighe's mother Leeanne said his progress has been remarkable. He recently managed 15 unaided steps

Doctors have said AJ’s progress since the operation has been ‘remarkable’ and proud mother Leeanne said watching her son take his first unaided steps had made all the hard work worthwhile.

She said: 'It was an unbelievable
moment, it was everything we have dreamed of for so long and something
we thought we might never see.


Cerebral is another word for the brain.
Palsy means a complete or partial loss of the ability to move a body
part. So cerebral palsy means loss of ability to move a body part
because of a problem with the brain.

Cerebral palsy is not a single
condition. It is an umbrella term used to describe a group of conditions
that cause movement problems. Although the main problem is with the
muscles in one or more parts of the body, the condition is caused by
damage or faulty development in a part of the brain. The part of the
brain affected is that which sends messages to muscles.

The damage or faulty development usually occurs when a baby is in the womb. Sometimes it occurs during, or shortly after, birth.

Depending on the type of cerebral palsy
and the area of brain affected, a child may not be able to walk, move,
talk, eat or play in the same ways as other children.

'He’s a stubborn thing who doesn’t like to be told he can’t do something and that’s how it started. He began to get up and his cousin was telling him not to because he couldn’t walk without his sticks and he just said ‘yes I can, I’ll show you’.'

'He took two steps, then got back up and did four and in the end managed to walk about 15 steps over to his grandma. It was amazing.

'He was so proud of himself afterwards and it was great to be able to see his face because he knew he’d done something really important.'

Andrew, known as AJ, has a form of Cerebral Palsy known as Spastic Diplegia, which accounts for 80 per cent of cases. It is caused when brain damage occurs in the outer layer of the brain and affects the legs more than the arms.

AJ underwent a series of operations in May to straighten and strengthen his legs at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri last month.

The procedure, known as Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy, involves cutting the nerves in the spine to release the spasticity (tension) in AJs muscles, allowing him to move far more freely.

Although the operation has just become available at a hospital in Bristol, funding it not widely available.

Doctors expect AJ to be regularly walking unaided within six months and physiotherapy to help develop his leg muscles could take up to two years.

However, following NHS cuts the family now have to raise up to an additional 8,000 for two years of private treatment with a specialist nurse.

The family have pledged to hand any money left over from the rehabilitation costs to another child with cerebral palsy looking to fly to the States.

For more information, or to donate, visit

The video below shows AJ before the operation when making his appeal