THE parents of battling baby Oliver Smart have been given the best gift ever – movement in their precious baby’s limbs.
David and Mandy Smart were horrified to learn that the lack of movement in their son’s legs was down to a cancerous tumour which had grown right through his spine rendering him paralysed.
The pair took the tough decision to put Oliver through an operation to remove some of the growth from his backbone, with the risk that he might not pull through the six-hour operation.
But the married couple from Dryden Road, in the Rift House area of Hartlepool, held onto the glimmer of hope that the surgery at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary might work and give their son the chance of movement, and physical activity.
And it seems their surgical gamble may have paid off after little Oliver moved his toes and ever so slightly pushed on a doctor’s hand with his tiny foot.
David, 37, who does not work due to back problems, told the Mail: “After the operation the doctors said to us that if it was a success we should see some movement there quite quickly.
“But we’d been home with him for about a month and we hadn’t seen anything and it wasn’t looking very promising. We were starting to get our heads around the fact that he might never walk and thought as long as we’ve got him here with us we don’t care.
“But then about two weeks ago we started rubbing his knee and he moved his toes. We couldn’t believe it and we didn’t know whether we dared believe it.
“Then last week at a check-up at the hospital the doctor got quite startled and said; ‘he’s just pushed against my hand’.”
He added: “It’s brilliant and we’re so glad Oliver did it to the doctor as well because we were thinking it was just us seeing things.
“It’s only a little thing but to us it’s the biggest thing ever.
“We’re so glad we went ahead with the operation now because we couldn’t have lived with ourselves if we hadn’t have given him that chance.
“We don’t know how far this is going to go and whether he will ever be able to walk but this is definitely a step in the right direction.”
The family are now waiting for an appointment for Oliver to be checked by specialists to see whether their prayers will definitely be answered and that Oliver will be able to gradually move all of his legs and potentially walk one day.
David and Mandy are also excited to be permanently reunited with their four other children – Joshua, seven, six-year-old Courtney, Thomas, four, and Riley, two – who had to be put into temporary foster care as there was no-one else to care for them while Oliver was ill in hospital.
Mandy, 26, a full-time mum, said: “We’re getting them back for a few days over Christmas and then permanently in January once we know Oliver doesn’t have to go back to hospital or anything. We can’t wait.”
Oliver was born seemingly perfectly healthy, but was diagnosed as having the neuroblastoma growth after initially picking up a chest infection aged just seven months.
But when the illness failed to clear up and he started to lose the use of his legs, tests showed up the lump pressing between his spine and his chest.
Doctors initially tried to shrink it with chemotherapy drugs but to no avail, however, David and Mandy have been boosted by news that the tumour is unlikely to spread.