A teenager – who is recovering from potentially life-changing surgery in Spain - could be discharged from hospital today.
Ellie Gray, 18, spent 13 hours in theatre last month for an operation to alleviate symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
EDS is a debilitating genetic condition which has caused Ellie to suffer from lax ligaments - resulting in her skull slipping onto her brain stem.
Due to complications, neurosurgeons at a Barcelona hospital spent twice as long operating to fuse her skull to her spine as anticipated.
Her family say Ellie, of Victoria Terrace, East Boldon, has now been able to get out of bed and is walking short distances with the help of a support frame.
To the delight of her mum - Janine, 48, and dad Neil, 50, who are keeping a bedside vigil - Ellie has also told her doctors that she can feel increased stability around her neck.
The only problem has been her contracting a chest infection and high temperature, which are being treated with antibiotics.
To secure her recovery, her nursing team are also having to wear gloves and gowns when in contact with her.
Janine said: “Ellie is doing ok, improving a bit day by day.
“She has turned a corner.
“She feels that her neck is much more stable when she’s upright which is fantastic.”
She added: “She’s still on some pretty heavy-duty pain relief but that should ease with time.
“All being well, she will be discharged form hospital in the next day or two to continue recovering at the apartment.”
She added: “Hopefully, she will be able to get a bit more mobile now which will really help her recovery.
“She’s had a bit of a chest infection which she’s being treated for which has been a bit of a hiccup, but that’s clearing now.”
Ellie has been told it could be up to year before doctors know if the operation has been a success.
She had to travel overseas due to there being no specialist operating centre in the UK, and the only other possible medical centres were in the US.
Janine and her husband Neil, 50, set about raising £94,000 to cover costs, and the appeal has now topped £39,000.
To add to the family’s concerns, Janine, a former medical statistician, also suffers from EDS and requires similar treatment.
Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/just4children/elliesfusion
More information on her story is at page www.facebook.com/elliesfusion