WOW! Just look at him now.
This is brave Mitchell Spencer. The Hartlepool youngster who was facing the possibility of being in a wheelchair unless he had life-changing surgery.
But now – exactly six months on after that operation in the USA – Mitchell has been transformed.
He can walk half a mile, play football, cricket and rounders at West Park Primary School where he is a pupil,ride a scooter and goes horse riding every Monday.
All that has been achieved by the determined 10-year-old who could only walk a few yards when he first returned home after his treatment.
Mum Deborah Spencer, 45, today gave a heartfelt thank you to the Hartlepool Mail readers who helped raise the £50,000 needed to get Mitchell to the USA for the surgery.
“We could not have done it without them,” said Deborah, from the West Park area of town.
“They have helped to transform Mitchell’s life as much as Dr Park has.
“We would have been looking at him in a wheelchair and it was a really bleak outlook.
“We don’t have those worries any more. We can enjoy Mitchell’s future.”
The 10-year-old has just had his six-month evaluation by Dr T S Park – the surgeon who carried out the operation last autumn at the St Louis Children’s Hospital, in Missouri.
In a letter to Mitchell’s parents Deborah, and Phil, 43, Dr Park said Mitchell had transformed himself and had a bright future ahead of him.
Mum Deborah revealed the amazing progress Mitchell has made since returning home from the double dose of surgery.
“He can jump and land properly on his feet.
“I go horse riding with him on a Monday and he is so much better at it than I am. I can’t believe it!
“Also, Mitchell and I recently walked half a mile to get to a friend’s house. They are all massive moves forward for him.”
In many ways, she added, the progress was also Mitchell’s way of gaining confidence. “It is as much an integration for him back into childhood.”
Mitchell and his family went to America in October last year for two sets of operations.
First surgeons had to cut the nerves in his legs which were sending faulty messages to his muscles. They left the remaining nerves intact in a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy.
Then, he had more surgery at the hospital to lengthen his heel cords and hamstrings. He then faced months of physiotherapy which continued after his return to Hartlepool.
Deborah said: “He is building his core strength and building his legs. He is absolutely brilliant and we are amazed with him.”
The cost of the four-week American stay was paid for thanks to a £50,000 fundraising campaign called Get Mitchell To America, which was supported by dozens of people throughout Hartlepool and the North-East.