Sunderland boy’s walking dream coming true – thanks to Echo readers

Another milestone for brave Liam Straughan. Six-year-old Liam is back with his classmates at Dubmire Primary School without his walking frame. Pictured with Liam (centre) is, from the left Amelia Croft, Keira Gamble, Joel Delany and Daniel Bainbridge.
Another milestone for brave Liam Straughan. Six-year-old Liam is back with his classmates at Dubmire Primary School without his walking frame. Pictured with Liam (centre) is, from the left Amelia Croft, Keira Gamble, Joel Delany and Daniel Bainbridge.
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“LOOK at me walk now.”

Schoolboy Liam Straughan is taking huge strides towards recovery after having major corrective surgery on his spine.

The six-year-old, of Houghton, underwent what is known as a spinal rhizotomy to help ease tension in his legs caused by cerebral palsy.

Liam, who goes to Dubmire Primary School, was born 10 weeks premature and diagnosed with the condition at 18 months old. Since then, he has had to wear leg splints and use a walking frame to get about

The condition meant the youngster was in constant pain and doctors said that without the operation, which isn’t funded by the NHS, his condition would deteriorate as he got older, eventually leading to him using a wheelchair.

Generous Echo readers helped raise more than £20,000 towards the cost of the procedure, and now he is coming on leaps and bounds, and soon hopes to be able to achieve his dream of “running like his friends.”

Liam underwent five hours of surgery at Leeds General Hospital last month where the nerves in his spine were cut to release the tension in his legs.

He recently returned home and this week walked unaided into school for the first time.

“He has been amazing,” said dad Neil, 39, a turner at Rolls-Royce, Pallion. “He has shocked everyone with how quickly he is recovering.

“We were told it would take a while for him to get back to where he was before the operation, but he’s come on even more than that now.”

Headteacher of Dubmire Primary School, Joan Hobbs, added: “Liam is so brave and happy. We are thrilled to see how well he is doing and have him at school. His is so positive it rubs off on everyone else, and his parents have been so strong pushing for this to happen. It is wonderful to see the dramatic improvement in him already.”

Liam will have intensive physiotherapy for the next two years to help his recovery.

“The hard work starts now really,” said Neil. “But the physio has said that he might be able to lose his leg splints completely, which was always the hope, sooner than planned.”

Neil, Liam’s mum Rachel, 35, and sister Jess, two, returned home at the weekend after staying in Leeds while Liam was a hospital patient.

“It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind,” said Rachel, an administration assistant at Neural Pathways, in Gateshead.

“We’re just settling back into a routine at home, and getting Liam back to physio and things.

“But we’ve noticed a big difference already.

“He used to get up on a morning and crawl around until he had his leg splints and shoes on, but now he can walk straight away.”

Liam, whose wish was to join in PE with his friends, can now look forward to fulfilling his dream.

Liam said: “My new legs feel good. I feel really good.”

Echo editor John Szymanski said: “Liam’s story really resonated with our readers and they rallied round to help him have the operation. It’s fantastic to hear how well he’s doing already. He’s a brave little boy and we’re all very proud to have helped.”

A big thank you to Sunderland Echo readers

NEIL and Rachel said they are grateful to everyone who contributed to the £30,000 raised for Liam’s operation and physiotherapy.

“Thank you to the Sunderland Echo readers,” said Neil. “Without their help we would still be raising money.

“Work have accommodated me and helped to raise money, and my friend, Paul Gray, is giving Liam extra physio at his gym which is helping him.

“Everyone who took part in the Three Peaks with me made a huge effort as well, which I appreciate.”

The couple, who began raising money in June in the hope of Liam being able to have the operation in January 2014, said they have been overwhelmed by the kindness of their friends, family, and complete strangers.

“We can’t believe how generous people have been,” said Rachel. “It’s just unbelievable.

“The consultant at Leeds General, Dr Goodden, couldn’t have done any more for us.

“And my friend Vicki Gillman, from Neural Pathways, is giving him extra physio which I’m really grateful for.

“How much he has improved so quickly is prove it’s been worth it.

“Thank you so, so much.”