The family of a little Hampshire girl who raised more than £100,000 to pay for a major operation say it has given her a new lease of life.
And it looks like the surgery has been just the ticket for six-year-old Jemima Syvret who was born with quadriplegia – a form of cerebral palsy which meant she needed round-the-clock care.
But with the help of her mum, Jo, dad, Andrew, and brothers Oli and Freddie, the Hiltingbury Junior School girl is now showing the first signs of independence.
The family, from Norlands Drive in Otterbourne, started campaigning in September to get Jemima to Missouri to have a selective dorsal rhizotomy which involved severing nerves in the base of Jemima’s spine that sent incorrect messages to her legs. Surgery went well and now only the “correct nerves” are responding which has meant, with intense physiotherapy, Jemima might one day be able to walk unaided.
Strict UK guidelines meant that Jemima wasn’t able to have the surgery in the UK but her mum said the trip was worth every mile and penny.
“It’s given her a new lease of life and to see the benefits already is hugely rewarding,” she said. “Straight away she was more flexible but also relatively weak because of the surgery. Now we need to build on that so she can do as much as she can on her own.
“Before she could sit on the floor cross-legged OK but now she can sit on a chair with some help which, while it might not seem a big thing, is such a help. Going to a friend’s house where she can sit in a chair will just mean she’s not so restricted.
“It’s like teaching a toddler again. All children progress at different rates but we’re hoping by her next birthday she can walk with her frame pretty much unaided.”
But now the family have one more bump in the road. Jemima’s been visiting the Rainbow Centre in Fareham since she was two which, because of a lack of funding, is now at threat of closure, which Jo said would hugely affect Jemima’s development.
“It’s a key part of the rehabilitation and there is nowhere else,” she said.
“If they close she will have to have private physio but it’s not integrated with other areas of her learning. At the Rainbow it is all about her development and it’s tied in with the national curriculum so she’s learning all the time and with other disabled children so she gets to be socialable too. We pay about £20 an hour for her physio at the Rainbow but privately it would cost £100 per hour.
“Luckily we fundraised a lot so we can afford to pay for it but other families may not be able to do that.
“The Rainbow centre has, for the last four years, made our lives so much easier and hopefully will continue to do so,” she added.