THIS time last year, Mitchell Spencer was getting ready for a major operation to help him walk better.
But now one year on, the Hartlepool youngster is literally climbing his way to super fitness.
In a remarkable turnaround, the 11-year-old has just completed after a five-mile walk along the Cleveland Way to the top of Roseberry Topping.
It’s one year since the Hartlepool youngster, who has cerebral palsy, headed to the USA for two operations.
His development has been so astonishing since his return, he is even having to ease back on his physiotherapy sessions.
Proud mum Deborah, 45, of Cresswell Court, in Hartlepool, said: “He has gained so much more strength and confidence.
“We’ve started to decrease the amount of actual physiotherapy he does now – partly because he’s so more active through the day and partly because he’s totally whacked when he comes home and still has lots of homework.
“Mainly, though, it’s because he’s gained so much more strength and confidence that we can ease our feet off the pedals now.”
Twelve months have flown by since Mitchell and his family headed out to the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri last October.
Thanks to a £50,000 fundraising campaign – called Get Mitchell To America – supported by dozens of people throughout Hartlepool and the North-East, he underwent a double dose of life-changing surgery called selective dorsal rhizotomy.
Specialist surgeons at St Louis Children’s Hospital first cut the nerves in his legs which were sending faulty messages to his muscles, leaving the remaining nerves intact.
Days later, Mitchell had more surgery at the hospital to lengthen his heel cords and hamstrings.
It was followed by months of intensive physiotherapy and the whole programme proved to be a massive success, much to the joy of proud parents Deborah and Phil Spencer, 43.
Deborah said: “Mitchell now plays rugby twice a week and uses the school gym a couple of times a week for his physiotherapy too. He’s also tried his hand at canoeing.
“But I think his biggest achievement so far has to be his epic climb from Captain Cook’s Monument car park along the Cleveland Way to the top of Roseberry Topping, which is about five miles.
“It took us a while but we got there and back in just over three and a half hours.”
She looked back on the changes in her son’s life and admitted: “It has been a momentous year.”