New start for Hartlepool boy with cerebral palsy

Mitchell with his parents after the operation
Image caption Mitchell is now walking with his feet flat

A 10-year-old Hartlepool boy with cerebral palsy is learning to do some of the things he has never been able to manage before, like riding a bike, after major surgery.

Mitchell's parents thought they had exhausted all the options for treating their son but then stumbled across a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy to treat spasticity in people with cerebral palsy.

But it was not available in the UK and they had to raise more than £40,000 to travel to the US.

The operation in October was hailed a success and Mitchell is now back on Teesside starting the long recovery process.

The brain damage Mitchell suffered before he was born disrupted nerve signals and his leg muscles were tensed up. It meant he walked on his tiptoes with bent knees.

He found it hard to walk upstairs and could not put his socks on or tie his laces.

His prospects were a gradual tightening of his muscles and decreasing mobility.

'Worst fear'

So when Mitchell's parents Deborah and Phil found out about the operation at the St Louis Children's Hospital, in Missouri, they set about fundraising.

Deborah said: "The thought of him being in a wheelchair and not being able to get around himself and having to rely on other people - they were bad days.

Image caption The family raised more than £40,000

"I think the worst fear was that we were going to have to watch him struggle."

Selective dorsal rhizotomy has been carried out in the US for more than 20 years.

It involves a 1in (2.5cm) section of surface bone being removed from the spine. Then the exposed nerves which are sending the mixed messages are cut.

It means with fewer signals getting through, muscles relax and walking should become easier.

More than 40 children from the UK have had the operation since 2009.

The only centre which offers the procedure in the UK is the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, and there are differences from the treatment on offer in the US.

'Huge difference'

The Department of Health said: "Decisions about individual treatments are taken by local NHS bodies after considering how well the procedure works and whether it represents value for money."

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has been reassessing the procedure and is due to publish new guidance soon.

Its current guidance is that the procedure is safe but there are uncertainties about risks, how well it works and that patients need extensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation afterwards.

A neurosurgeon from Leeds was in St Louis to watch the procedure at the same time as Mitchell and his family and he said he was keen to bring the treatment to Britain.

Mitchell is now home and his mother said they were delighted with the results.

She said: "It has made a huge difference. He is walking tall with straight legs and his feet are flat on the ground.

"He is very proud of the fact that he can do that and he has said so.

"And I think the worry that he would eventually have not been able to walk at all as he got older, that's no longer there.

"So we are absolutely delighted with what has happened."

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites