Could you help Gracie, 5, to walk?
PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:12 01 June 2016
A Weston-super-Mare family is urging people to fulfil its biggest hopes by helping fund a major operation, which will allow a five-year-old girl to walk unaided for the first time.
Gracie Thorne suffers from spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, which affects her legs and means she is unable to walk without the help of a specialised frame or walking sticks.
Her parents, Sarah and Scott Thorne, are hoping Gracie’s condition can be improved with the help of an operation which would cut nerve endings in the base of her spine to relax the muscles in her legs – but the surgery is not available on the NHS.
That means Gracie’s family is now trying to raise at least £60,000 to cover the cost of the procedure, along with an extensive year-long physiotherapy programme after the operation which would be needed to teach Gracie how to walk unaided.
Sarah, aged 32 and of Longridge Way, told the Mercury: “We have to help her with getting up and down stairs and you can never just let go of her hand while she is standing.
“We will have to teach her how to walk again. At the minute, when she stands up she seems very strong, but that is because the muscles (in her legs) are so tight and with this she will lose that.
“The long-term goal would be for her to walk unaided, but there are no guarantees. We have just got to hope.”
Gracie, who goes to Mendip Green School in Worle, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after her first birthday when her parents realised she was not hitting certain milestones, such as being able to sit up unaided.
It is thought she developed the condition after Sarah developed an infection during pregnancy and gave birth to Gracie prematurely at 29 weeks.
Sarah said: “My waters broke at 21 weeks and we were in Spain. I spent five weeks in a Spanish hospital.
“We were then taken in an air ambulance back to St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol. She then arrived by emergency Caesarean section three weeks later because I got an infection.
“We spent nine days in intensive care but the first three days were touch and go. They said we were probably going to lose her, but she turned it around and just got stronger and stronger.
“Everybody comments on Gracie’s smile – she has always got a smile on her face and always wants to do things.
“She knows she has got cerebral palsy and cannot do certain things, but she never moans.”
The operation Gracie needs is known as SDR, which is short for selective dorsal rhizotomy.
It was pioneered by surgeons in the United States but will be performed on Gracie in Bristol if her family succeeds in raising the necessary funds.
Gracie’s grandmother, Julie Thorne, said the family was devastated when they discovered the NHS would not foot the bill for the surgery – but vowed to raise the cash ‘no matter what’ they faced.
Julie said: “It brings a tear to your eye when the children are all running around and Gracie says ‘I am not playing with my friends because they are all running, and I can’t’. That tugs on your heartstrings.
“We were really hopeful she could have the operation, but it was even worse when we found out the NHS were not funding it anymore. We just thought, ‘what now’?
“But we thought we will do it somehow – we will raise the money and get it sorted out.
“We will get that money no matter what.”
To donate towards the Thorne family’s fundraising efforts, click this link to visit their JustGiving page.