‘My legs are fixed. Now I need to make them stronger’

Ollie Saxton, aged four, recovering from his operation at St Louis Children's Hospital.
Ollie Saxton, aged four, recovering from his operation at St Louis Children's Hospital.
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Ollie walks for first time after operation

CHARISMATIC and strong-willed, Ollie Saxton is a bright young boy who knows how to speak his mind.

“My legs have been fixed,” says the cheeky four-year-old, trotting round his parents’ terraced house on Mansfield Road, Intake. “Now I need to make them stronger.”

Little Ollie has a way to go until he can walk completely unaided, but he has made huge progress since he woke in St Louis Children’s Hospital a month ago after a four-hour operation.

His mum Rachel found the experience very hard.

She said: “At first Ollie was asking us, ‘Why are my legs still broken?’, but on the fourth day after the operation they had him in physio and were making him walk, holding him up.

“It was exhausting for him but there was no being lenient - they were very strict and worked him hard.”

Now the hard work is starting to pay off and Rachel, also mum to Riegan, 10, and Evie, six, is already starting to see the impact on her youngest son, who celebrated his fourth birthday in St Louis.

“Ollie used to get so frustrated,” she said. “When we took him to the park he didn’t understand why he couldn’t go on the climbing frame with the other children.

“His legs were really stiff and tight and it was painful for him.

“He was too young to understand what was annoying him, so he could be quite grumpy.

“Now his concentration has improved because he is not thinking about his legs, and so his speech has improved and you can have long conversations with him.”

Ollie was born five weeks prematurely, damaging the white matter of his brain. When he was nine months old his parents noticed his legs twisting when he crawled, and he was diagnosed with the most common form of cerebral palsy - spastic diplegia.

The condition meant Ollie’s legs twisted inwards and his feet pointed downwards, which affected his balance and meant he could not stand or walk.

The operation which changed Ollie’s life - selective dorsal rhizotomy - involved cutting the nerves at the base of his spine to loosen the muscles in his legs.

Despite being unavailable on the NHS in Britain, selective dorsal rhizotomy is a common procedure in the USA, where St Louis Children’s Hospital is renowned for the operation.

Rachel said: “It’s seen as a really modern thing in this country, but Dr TS Park, who operated on Ollie, does three a day.

“For him it’s like removing an appendix, it’s simple.”

n To continue to support Ollie Saxton’s transformation, log on to http://sendollietostlouis.fullonweb.com