A BOY who underwent a life-changing operation thanks to the generosity of Echo readers is getting “stronger and stronger”.
Liam Straughan had to use a walking frame and wears leg splints after being born 10 weeks early, causing him to develop the debilitating condition cerebral palsy.
The six-year-old, who was at risk of needing a wheelchair by the time he was a teenager, couldn’t play football or do what he most wanted to – run like his friends.
His parents, Neil, 40, and Rachel, 35, found out that Liam could have an operation called a selective dorsal rhizotomy where surgeons cut nerves in the spine during a five-hour procedure, which frees tension on the legs.
However, NHS funding for the operation was refused, so Neil and Rachel, of Houghton, started trying to raise the £25,000 needed for the operation, and £5,000 for rehabilitation after it.
Thanks to an Echo campaign, which ran in July, readers helped to smash the target in less than a week, with one anonymous donor making a £20,000 donation.
Neil and Rachel, also parents to Jessica, two, say that in the six months since Liam underwent the operation at Leeds General Hospital, their lives have changed for ever.
Rachel said: “It’s just little things, like he carries his own school dinner tray and things that you take for granted
“The first few weeks after the operation were hard because we were in Leeds for a month, but since we got home he is just getting stronger and stronger.”
The couple said the support they received from readers, and people who didn’t know about Liam’s condition, overwhelmed them.
Rachel, an administration assistant at Neural Pathways in Gateshead, said: “We hadn’t told lots of people about Liam. Everyone was really supportive.
“We thought we would have had to wait until this year, and it was going to take us months to raise the money.
“Without the operation he would have ended up in a wheelchair, but hopefully that’s not even in the picture now.”
Liam, who attends Dubmire Primary School, Houghton, is still having physiotherapy, but no longer needs a walking frame, has learned to jump and is hoping to start karate lessons.
Dad Neil said: “Now he is going to lead as normal a life as possible for him.”