Determined Hartlepool schoolboy Alfie Smith is refusing to let two more operations stand in his way to one day being able to walk painfree and unaided.
The youngster, who has cerebral palsy, is now back home after spending a month in Leeds, where he underwent life-changing surgery – selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).
His stay in the West Yorkshire city took the nine-year-old and his mum Annie Stalley on a rollercoaster of emotions, with Alfie at one point needing sedation due to the severity of the pain he was in.
But now, the youngster is back with his trademark smile and determined to fulfil his dream of one day walking pain-free and unaided – despite being told he will need a third operation.
As well as needing surgery to lengthen his hamstrings, which his family were aware of, they have now been told, following an assessment, he will also need surgery on his knees.
The news came as a blow to his family, however, they say they are determined to keep concentrating on the future.
The procedures are so big, it will take him back to the beginning again which is why we need to make sure his body is strong enough to handle it.Annie Stalley
His mum Annie Stalley said: “We really have walked into the unknown.
“It has been hard since the operation and at times it has been frustrating for both of us as he has had to learn to move with a new body.
“But we are really happy with the outcome of the operation and you can see already how much of a difference it has made.
“Being back home, it has given us both a boost mentally, as we’re now back surrounded by family and friends.
“Alfie is a lot happier too and Alex is great and has been helping him too since we’ve been home.”
Annie added: “They think it will take about a year for Alfie to get back to where he was before the operation – but then again with Alfie who knows? He is really determined.
“But the main thing is that we build his body back up so that he can have these two other operations.
“We were already aware he would need to have his hamstrings lengthened, but the knee operation is a new one.
“I don’t know at the moment what is involved for the knee operation but they are hoping both operations will be able to be carried out locally at the James Cook hospital, otherwise we will have to travel to Sheffield.
“The procedures are so big, it will take him back to the beginning again, which is why we need to make sure his body is strong enough to handle it.
“All this has been quite dangerous and risky, but it is giving him the opportunity for a much better quality of life in the future.”
The Throston Primary School pupil’s physio has been increased from once an hour while he was in Leeds to three times a day.
The SDR operation involved Alfie’s back being cut open so that tests could be carried out on the nerve fibres running from the muscles to the spinal cord to find which ones most reduce his mobility, then dividing them to reduce stiffness and spasticity. The operation took between five and six hours.
The operation has been made possible following fundraising efforts of people and businesses across the region to secure the minimum £50,000 needed to enable the surgery to go ahead.
The cash will also help to fund two years of aftercare. Funds raised above the initial figure will be put towards a third year of aftercare as well as specialist equipment.
Annie said: “I don’t think people realise how vital the physiotherapy is in helping Alfie not just to be able to one day walk pain-free and unaided but to be able to be a lot more independent.
“Alfie has to rely on me for everything and as he is getting older it is getting harder, but all this will change that.
“Four weeks ago, Alfie didn’t have the strength to sit up and now he is able to do steps in his Kay Walker, which shows just how important daily physio is.
“We still have a very long and uncertain road ahead of us and at times it is frustrating, but it’s also very exciting.”