Michigan cerebral palsy lawyer shares a heartwarming story of a little girl who is starting to take her first steps thanks to selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery (SDR) paid for by lottery winners.

A four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has taken her first steps thanks to a large donation from Britain’s biggest lottery winners.  Chris and Colin Weir dipped into their £161million EuroMillions jackpot to pay for the little girl, Skye Swinton, to have revolutionary spinal surgery called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).

Mr. and Mrs. Weir paid the £28,000 needed for the SDR operation after Ms. Swinton wrote them a letter asking for help when her local NHS trust refused funding.  She was stunned to receive a phone call informing her that the kind couple would cover the entire remaining cost of the surgery.

Ms. Swinton said the operation was a success and so far, Skye is making very good progress.  “She is already walking better, which is fantastic, and where her muscles were tight before, it has taken that away,” Ms. Swinton told reporters.   “She had to lie flat for 48 hours after the operation, but now she is moving well and can already notice the difference.”

Skye was dependent upon a wheelchair before she had the operation, but she is now taking her first tentative steps.

“In the past she couldn’t move her toes very easily whereas now she can. We’re really pleased with how it went, and of course extremely grateful to everyone who made it possible,” Ms. Swinton said.

Skye was 13 weeks premature, weighing just 1lb., 15oz., and she suffers from spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, which confined her to a wheelchair.  She was unsteady on her feet and dreamed of walking and running like other children.

The operation took four hours to complete.  Although the procedure has been carried out in the U.S. for many years, it is new to the UK.  Without the operation – which involves partially cutting the nerve roots where they join the spinal cord to loosen the muscles – Skye would have needed major corrective surgery in a few years, and she would have faced spending most of her time in a wheelchair.

Ms. Swinton said she could already see the difference in her little girl.  “The way she moved before put a lot of strain on joints and muscles which would have led to long-term problems,” she said.  “Now she is walking properly with the help of a tripod and she is getting stronger all the time.”

The Swinton’s hope that within a couple of months, Skye will be able to walk completely unaided.  Sky is in very positive spirits, which thrills her parents.

The Weir’s said they made the donation because Skye faces many challenges in the next year and she needs her parents to be focused on her.  “That’s why we’ve given a donation.  Without the additional worry and pressure of fundraising, their time can be spent on Skye.”

WHAT IS SPASTIC DIPLEGIC CEREBRAL PALSY?

Spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, or spastic cerebral palsy, is the most common type of cerebral palsy.  Normally, muscles coordinate in pairs; when one group of muscles contract (tighten), the other group relaxes.  This allows free movement.  In spastic cerebral palsy, complications in brain-to-nerve-to-muscle communication occur and the balanced degree of muscle tension is disrupted.  Muscles affected by spastic cerebral palsy become active together which effectively blocks coordinated movement.  Thus, the muscles in children with spastic cerebral palsy are constantly stiff, or spastic.

The main difference between spastic diplegia (spastic cerebral palsy that primarily affects the lower body) and a normal gait (body propulsion / movement) pattern is its signature “scissor gait.”

Scissor gait is characterized by the following:

  •        Hips and pelvis are often locked, as if crouching while walking
  •        Knees and thighs may cross or touch while walking
  •        Ankles may be turned inwards while walking
  •        Arms and hands may go outwards from the body to provide balance
  •        “Tip toe” walking

The degree of spasticity varies widely from child to child.  Balance problems and / or stiffness in gait can range from barely noticeable to misalignments so pronounced that the child needs crutches or a cane to assist in being upright.  Spasticity can be so severe that the child is relegated to a wheelchair.  Above the hips, children with spastic diplegia typically retain normal or near-normal muscle tone and range of motion, though some spasticity may also affect the upper body.  Additionally, because leg tightness often leads to instability when in an upright position, extra muscle tension usually develops in the upper body, shoulders and arms due to compensatory stabilization movements.

Exposure to toxins (such as too much bilirubin / untreated jaundice), traumatic brain injury, encephalitis, meningitis, periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), brain bleeds, or the presence of certain maternal infections (Group B Strep, chorioamnionitis, herpes simplex virus) during pregnancy can all lead to spastic cerebral palsy.

WHAT IS SELECTIVE DORSAL RHIZOTOMY SURGERY?

SDR  is a neurosurgical technique used to treat spasticity (increased muscle tone) in the lower limbs.  The lower vertebrae are opened to reveal the spinal cord which contains the neurons of the central nervous system.  These neurons (bundles of nerve fibers) channel messages between the brain and different areas of the body.  Electrical stimulation is used to identify and sub-divide sensory and motor nerves.  This process continues until the specific nerves and nerve roots affecting the spastic muscles are identified and cut.  Due to the size of the nerves and roots, this is a very precise procedure and therefore the surgery can last several hours and requires a general anesthesia.  Many months of physical therapy are needed after the surgery to retrain the legs.

HELP FOR FAMILIES WHOSE CHILDREN HAVE CEREBRAL PALSY

If your baby suffered any birth complications and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, please contact the nationally recognized birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers.  For decades, our award winning attorneys have been helping families in Michigan and throughout the nation whose children have cerebral palsy.  We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts that attest to our success, and we will fight to obtain the compensation you and your family deserve for lifelong care and treatment of your child.  We will evaluate your case to determine if your child suffered injuries due to the negligence of the physician or medical staff, and you never pay any money until we win your case.  Email or call us at 888-419-2229.

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