PARENTS are hoping major spinal surgery will help their son to walk like his friends.
Five-year-old Liam Straughan was born more than two months’ premature, which resulted in him developing cerebral palsy that affects his legs.
Mum Rachel, 35, of Houghton, said doctors thought he was developing slowly, until he was diagnosed with the debilitating disease at 18 months old.
Now Liam, who goes to Dubmire Primary School, finds walking “like running a marathon” and uses a walking frame.
“He can only move a few metres unaided,” said Rachel, also mum to two-year-old Jess. “Everything is such an effort for him. He wears plastic splints which support him and allow him to walk a little further. But, as his muscles grow they tighten, and it sets him back again. He has to have a lot of physio.”
After being referred by a paediatrician at Sunderland Royal Hospital to a neurosurgeon at Leeds General Hospital, Rachel, and husband Neil Straughan, 39, a turner for Rolls Royce, in Sunderland, were told Liam is a perfect candidate for corrective spinal surgery which could help him to grow normally, and walk and run like his school mates.
The operation – selective dorsal rhizotomy – involves opening the spine, and cutting the nerves that send the wrong signals from the brain to the legs, which removes muscle tightness.
“We are concerned about the surgery,” said Rachel. “But it could change his life and give him independence, so it’s more beneficial that we get it done. It’s the closest thing to a cure there is.” The operation isn’t available on the NHS and Liam’s parents need £30,000 to pay for it, and any aftercare.
In just over two weeks, they have collected more than £6,255 from 104 donations, as well as receiving a lump sum of £4,500 from Nisa B&S Superstore, Fence Houses.
Now the Echo is urging readers to help out with the remaining £20,000.
Rachel hopes to have the money by the end of the year, to get the operation done in January.
Echo editor John Szymanski said: “It would be fantastic to help little Liam walk just like his friends.
“We know times are hard, but I also know just how generous Echo readers can be for a cause like this and urge people to get behind our campaign to make Liam’s dreams come true.”
Doctors said Liam is at the best age for the operation. “The more he grows and the heavier he gets, the more difficult it will be to do,” said Rachel.
“We could wait and apply for the money again, but he will be a year older if we do get it, and if we don’t, he will become more affected by it.
“His feet will start to turn in, and he will probably end up in a wheelchair.”
Rachel and Neil have set up a Just Giving page to raise the money. Any excess funding will be donated to children’s charity Tree of Hope. Visit www.justgiving.com/alifechangeforliam or text LIAM65 and the amount to 70070.
A spokesman for NHS England, said: “NHS England’s commissioning policy means that this procedure is not being routinely funded for patients in England. Individual funding requests will continue to be considered where there are believed to be exceptional clinical grounds in an individual case.
“However, given the potential role of this treatment option, NHS funding may be provided later this financial year for a small group of patients at selected centres to specifically gather more information as part of a formal evaluation of the procedure’s relative effectiveness.
“We aim to keep all patients affected by this change informed. It would be inappropriate to comment on an individual patient.”