A BRAVE little boy is today on his way to America for an operation that will hopefully change his life.
Three-year-old triplet Derek Russell, who was born prematurely and has cerebral palsy, is travelling Stateside for a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), which should help improve his posture and balance.
Derek’s dream is to have the freedom to play with his brother and sister, Daniel and Terri.
Cash for the operation has been raised following a charity appeal to raise £60,000 through the Echo, and which generous readers have donated more than £30,000.
The cost of the procedure itself is £28,000, but more money is needed towards Derek’s treatment over the next couple of years.
Speaking today before she and her son leave, Derek’s mum Michelle, 35, of Horsley Road, Washington, said: “Derek’s really excited.
“He knows he’s going on the big aeroplane to see the doctor who will fix his legs.”
Initially, just Michelle and Derek were set to make the trip, but now, Michelle’s oldest son John, 17, will also be going.
They will fly from Newcastle Airport to Amsterdam before taking a plane to Detroit and then another to St Louis, where the operation will be carried out.
“It dawned on me recently that I’ll be alone once Derek goes for the operation,” said Michelle.
“In this country, you’re with the child even when they go to theatre, but in America you hand them over and you don’t see them again until things are finished.
“I’ll be waiting around for hours so it’ll be great to have John there for emotional support.”
The procedure is now pencilled in for Thursday, October 2, but Derek is not due to return home for almost a month.
Michelle said: “He has a pre-op assessment once we get there and then after the operation on the 2nd, he should be discharged into my care on the 7th.
“After that though, he has to go back in for physio every day until we fly back at the start of November.
“We’ve got everything crossed that it will work out and he’ll be able to live a normal life.”
To donate to Derek’s appeal, go to www.justgiving.com/Michelle-Russell8.