BRAVE toddler Derek Russell is making solid progress as he recovers from life-changing surgery in America to help him walk.
The Washington youngster, three, is currently stateside after undergoing selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), which is helping to improve his posture and balance.
Derek, who is a triplet, was born with cerebral palsy and although he has developed in recent years, he has not been able to move as freely as his brother Daniel and sister Terri.
But now, after the operation at St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, he is taking part in daily physiotherapy sessions to boost the strength in his legs after the procedure was deemed a success.
Derek’s loving mum Michelle, 35, who has travelled Stateside with her son, today told the Echo: “The bairn has gone through the mill and you can see that some of the pictures are heart-breaking.
“His physio mainly involves football because he loves it so much, but hopefully he’ll be kicking a ball properly soon.”
Scores of people have donated to Derek’s campaign since it began last year, with the total now well over £34,000.
About £60,000 will be needed for his treatment over the next couple of years.
Speaking about the physiotherapy, she said: “I have a booklet I work from that the hospital gave me which includes stretches he has to do twice a day and strengthening exercises once a day.
“All this alone is just an add-on and Derek’s doctor, Dr Park, recommends four to five sessions of professional physio with what I do added on.”
The family are expected to arrive back on Wearside at the start of next month, once Derek has completed further rehabilitation.
Michelle added that Derek has been picking up Americanisms in his short time across the pond.
“He’s really picking up the lingo over here,” she said. “His versions of ‘awesome’ and ‘trash can’ are class.”
Another of Michelle’s hopes is that Derek can be a mascot for his beloved Sunderland AFC on his return home.
“If that were to happen, it would be a unbelievable memory which he would have forever,” said Michelle.
“It’d be amazing not just for us to see but for him to hopefully walk alongside his heroes independently and actually kick a ball.”
To keep up with Derek’s progress, search for “Little Derek’s Journey to Walk” on Facebook.
To donate to his appeal, go to www.justgiving.com/Michelle-russell8/.