Girl, 6, with cerebral palsy, to fulfill ballet dream after having life-changing 50,000 surgery in U.S.
Ria now faces intense physiotherapy to build up the leg muscles she hasn't used properly before



14:26 GMT, 2 August 2012

A young girl with cerebral palsy who dreams of being a ballet dancer, is one step closer after a life-changing operation in America.

Ria Stonehouse, six, underwent an operation on her back and legs to help her walk totally independently.

Now just six weeks after the operation, the schoolgirl has been able to walk 18 steps without a walking frame or sticks.


 Ria Stonehouse, six, underwent an operation on her back and legs to help her walk


Ria Stonehouse and mother Michelle

Write caption here

Ria’s mother Michelle, 32, and father Paul, 47, spent almost two years trying to raise the 50,000 to take her to St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri as the procedure – called a selective dorsal rhizotomy – is not widely available in Britain.

During the operation surgeons gain access to the nerve roots in the spinal cord by opening up one vertebra. The abnormal nerve roots causing the spasticity are identified by
electrical stimulation. The nerves that are not 'transmitting' effectively are
partially cut. Physiotherapy is then essential to build up the leg muscles as they are weaker through not being used.

It means that Ria, from Dukinfield in Greater Manchester, could soon take ballet classes.

Mrs Stonehouse said: 'The hospital was amazing and all the staff were so nice and so kind. Even the day after the operation her legs were very different.

'She can now move her toes separately and I’ve noticed she can tap her foot in time to
music – before it was her whole leg.

'They’re small changes and most people just take those things for granted but to us they’re amazing to see and it makes a massive difference to us.'

Her family and friends worked tirelessly for almost two years to organise fundraising events including charity nights, sponsored slimming, walks and runs, coffee mornings and dress down days.

While the operation is complete, Ria now faces months of gruelling physiotherapy to build her strength and coordination.

Mrs Stonehouse added: 'She can now stand very, very straight and her doctors believe that within six months she can move on to the sticks all the time and then in a year or so, hopefully, she will walk independently.

'We’re so grateful to everyone who’s helped us do this, we just wish there was more awareness in this country of the procedure so that parents have a choice.'