Girl, 6, with cerebral palsy walks for first time after faulty nerves are cut in pioneering U.S surgery

Delight: Lily Gordon is now walking after having surgery at the Childrens Hospital in St Louis, Missouri

Delight: Lily Gordon is now walking after having surgery at the Childrens Hospital in St Louis, Missouri
Lily started with splints the whole way up her leg but now has small ankle splints Her parents watched a TV programme by chance that led them to the treatment

A little girl who has spent her entire life crippled by cerebral palsy has taken her first steps.

Since undergoing pioneering surgery in the U.S. Lily Gordon, six, has even managed a few dance steps with the help of a walking frame.

Her proud mother, 39-year-old Joanne, of North Shields, North Tyneside, said: ‘She is doing so well. She has even joined a musical theatre class and joins in doing little movements with her feet.’

This time last year seeing Lily take part in a dance class was something her parents Joanne and David never thought they would see. But then they watched a programme which would go on to change Lily’s life.

They heard about the story of a young boy with cerebral palsy who had travelled to America for pioneering Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery to help him walk.

As a result Joanne, a finance and commercial manager, decided the family would raise the 50,000 necessary to send Lily to The Children’s Hospital, St Louis, in Missouri, USA.

It was hoped a four-week stay would make Lily’s dreams of walking a reality.

Joanne said: ‘It was just by the off-chance we had seen the programme, and if we had not heard about it we may never have gone along that road.

‘Last year we were just thinking about it around Christmas, we did not know how much it would cost.

‘It hard to believe it is 12 months later and it is all over and on her way to recovery. We are so glad we did it.’

Joanne with her daughter Lily

Joanne with her daughter Lily who had Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery

Months of hard work and endless fundraising finally paid off for the Gordon family and they managed to raise 70,000 by the summer.

On August 12, Lily’s sixth birthday, Joanne, David, Lily and their oldest daughter Katie, jetted off to America for the long-awaited surgery.

Now Lily is home and going through rigorous physiotherapy three times a week after enduring a four- hour operation and then further tendon lengthening surgery in America.

Joanne added: ‘It is all the little things that mean the world to us such as Lily’s handwriting improving since the surgery.

‘Some people may expect her to be walking fully by now, but it is things like her sitting on the sofa on her own and the fact we can leave her to sit on a chair whereas before she would have just fallen off it.

‘We can see as the weeks go on she is getting stronger. She wants to walk now, and she can if we hold her hand.’

What is Selective Dorsal Rhizotomysi

According to Scope, it is a neurosurgical technique used to treat spasticity (increased muscle tone) in the lower limbs.

The lower vertebrae are opened to reveal the spinal cord which contain the neurones of the central nervous system. These neurones (bundles of nerve fibres) channel messages between the brain and different areas of the body.

Electrical stimulation is used to identify and sub-divide sensory and motor nerves.

This process continues until the specific nerves and nerve roots affecting the spastic muscles and which may not be ‘transmitting’ properly are identified and cut.

Due to the size of the nerves and rootlets, this is a very precise procedure and therefore the surgery can last several hours and requires a general anaesthetic.

The family have turned their dining room into a mini gym for Lily to build up her strength after the tightness was taken from her muscles.

Lily has gone from having large splints the whole way up her leg, to small ankle splints which her parents hope she will be able to remove in the new year.

Joanne said: ‘Hopefully in the new year we will get her just on her walker – a stable frame which gives her support.

‘But the one thing Lily loves about her new splints is that she can now wear sparkly Princess shoes which she could never get her feet into before.

‘She has a pair of red sparkly shoes from Next and she just loves them because everyone says she is like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

‘She has worked very hard but we have a long way to go but it has been a very good year.’