Surgeons in major breakthrough at Southampton General Hospital

Daily Echo: Charlotte with her parents Charlotte with her parents

A teenager who was told to get a wheelchair and get on with life because she would never walk again was able to take her first steps after a pioneering operation by Southampton surgeons.

Charlotte Volante had been confined to a wheelchair since the age of 11 after being born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

But children's orthopaedic expert Caroline Edwards was confident she could get Charlotte standing again - and after a complicated operation in July this year to lengthen the tight muscles at the hips, knees and feet, Charlotte amazed her family by standing up next to her hospital bed.

Not only did the procedure at Southampton General Hospital enable Charlotte, fro Jersey, to stand upright in a supported frame, the improvement in movement allowed her to take her first steps.

Supported by a nurse and her mother Bernadette, 52, the teenager then proceeded to walk around her ward and the nurses' station.

The breakthrough was just 10 days before her 18th birthday and left Charlotte and her family with a double reason to celebrate.

Charlotte, the youngest of five girls and two boys, said: ``When I was 11, I was given an electric wheelchair and told to just get on with it.

``After I met Caroline, I agreed to let her do the op she suggested but I didn't really know if it would work.

``Walking again after my operation did not feel strange and it didn't hurt; it just felt completely natural.''

It has been a long road for Charlotte as she and her parents have made more than 500 return trips to Southampton for treatment.

The breakthrough operation in the summer had been Charlotte's 43rd surgical procedure. She has undergone numerous operations on her head, legs, back and stomach.

She will still have to return to Southampton for further treatment including having new splints fitted.

Her father Tony, 50, said: ``We have been coming to Southampton General Hospital regularly since Charlotte was just a day old and have nothing but good things to say about it.

``The staff have been brilliant and there are still one or two we remember from when we first came in all those years ago.''

Meanwhile, Charlotte is hoping to fulfil another dream - learning to drive.

``Caroline has given me the drive to go on and make all my dreams a reality and I now hope to begin to drive - and I'm already saving for a car,'' she said.

Charlotte is one of 15 children and young people who have benefited from a pioneering accelerated rehabilitation programme developed by the hospital.

The programme can see patients walking within six weeks of hip surgery through the use of a removable brace.

Conventionally, patients are placed in plaster shorts - known as a spica - for six to eight weeks. These hold the hip in place but limit movement, causing muscle wastage, delaying the start of therapy treatment and preventing them from standing for at least three months.

Under accelerated rehabilitation, patients are placed in their brace at night or during periods of rest following surgery, allowing early movement and standing to preserve muscle strength or comfortable seating.

The programme is already helping young cerebral palsy patients as well as those with spina bifida, where a series of birth defects affect the development of the spine and nervous system.

``It is fantastic to see children and young people like Charlotte to be up on their feet so soon after major invasive surgery - the early movement with the brace seems to be the key,'' said Miss Edwards.

``I am delighted for Charlotte and her family, especially as they thought she would never walk again.''

Comments (8)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

1:13pm Wed 26 Dec 12

Lord Ikea says...

Forget get queuing for hours for a cheap tee-shirt this is a true Christmas story. Happy Christmas Charlotte.
Forget get queuing for hours for a cheap tee-shirt this is a true Christmas story. Happy Christmas Charlotte. Lord Ikea

2:24pm Wed 26 Dec 12

Richard 51 says...

One small step – one giant leap for you, well done
One small step – one giant leap for you, well done Richard 51

2:55pm Wed 26 Dec 12

commonsence says...

Wow Charlotte , Well done love , so brave and what a pretty young woman you are . Happy Christmas to you and your family and Happy New Year too xx
Wow Charlotte , Well done love , so brave and what a pretty young woman you are . Happy Christmas to you and your family and Happy New Year too xx commonsence

3:20pm Wed 26 Dec 12

Rainyday says...

What a lovely report. Well done to all concerned and especially Charlotte for having faith in her surgeon and for her perseverance. Our NHS is still the best in the world. Good Luck to you in the future.
What a lovely report. Well done to all concerned and especially Charlotte for having faith in her surgeon and for her perseverance. Our NHS is still the best in the world. Good Luck to you in the future. Rainyday

4:12pm Wed 26 Dec 12

richieroo says...

Nice to read something positive for a change. Well done young lady!. :-)
Nice to read something positive for a change. Well done young lady!. :-) richieroo

4:21pm Wed 26 Dec 12

Lockssmart says...

Top stuff. You must be so happy.
Top stuff. You must be so happy. Lockssmart

2:11pm Thu 27 Dec 12

aldermoorboy says...

Great news for this loving family. Well done to you all.
Great news for this loving family. Well done to you all. aldermoorboy

3:18pm Thu 27 Dec 12

Subject48 says...

Great story. Congratulations!
Great story. Congratulations! Subject48

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree