IT was her dream – to wear normal shoes and walk like other children.

For the first nine years of her life, Megan Vernon could only move around with great pain because of her cerebral palsy.

Now the Hampshire youngster has had the best Christmas present of all – she has taken her first proper steps after an operation in America.

Daily Echo readers helped her parents raise £40,000 to make the trip to the US for the life-changing surgery.

Just two days after going into theatre, Megan was up and about.

Now she is having intensive physiotherapy to make sure she is walking tall when she returns home later this month.

Megan’s family, from Bishopstoke, launched Megan’s Quest through the Daily Echo in July to make it possible for her to have the selective dorsal rhizotomy, which relaxes her leg muscles permanently so she can walk on her heels.

Although it is available in this country, the NHS offered Megan another operation, which involves invasive surgery and would require further operations in the future.

After we told her story, the cash was raised in just three months.

Before the operation Megan’s legs turned inwards, causing her to walk on her toes, which caused her great pain despite hours of treatment every day.

Speaking from America, mum Steph said: “The operation is just amazing. Megan is walking with her heels flat on the ground and her feet no longer turn inwards.

“I’m unbelievably happy with the way she is walking now, I cannot believe that her walking is going to improve even more. It is just a dream come true.

“Megan was very brave and she is showing great determination to get back to full fitness.

I would like to thank every single person who donated to Megan’s Quest, it really has changed Megan’s life.”

Megan and her mum will remain in St Louis, Missouri, for a couple of weeks for another, smaller operation to lengthen her muscles and physiotherapy but her dad, Rob, has flown back to the UK to be with their two other children, Emma and Luke.

Before flying home Rob could already see improvements in Megan’s gait and her stride pattern but she faces hours of physiotherapy in which she has to unlearn how to walk and learn how to use her heels.

Rob added: “Luckily Megan has always had a great attitude to her physio and is aware that it is the secret to getting the most out of this operation and walking on her heels.

“It was great to see the improvement she had made, even in the first few days after the operation, so fingers crossed that can be consolidated.”

Last month Megan told the Daily Echo: “I want to say thank you to all the people who helped me raise the money.

“I am excited about being able to run around with my friends and buy normal shoes.”