Little Evie walks for first time after people of Bristol raise £30,000
HERE is little Evie Tucker smiling as she takes her first tentative steps following a life-changing operation – paid for by Bristolians touched by her story.
Evie, four, has cerebral palsy and people across the city dug deep to help pay for the surgery after the NHS refused to fund a procedure at Frenchay Hospital.
And now Evie is home from hospital and practising her walking, which is improving every day.
As reported in The Post in January Evie was unable to walk unaided and suffered painful spasms in her legs due to her cerebral palsy.
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The Avonmouth youngster wanted to be able to walk and dance like her friends so her parents Karissa Skidmore and Dan Tucker looked into the option of selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) – where nerves in the spinal cord are cut to reduce the tightening of her muscles.
The procedure is not routinely-funded and NHS Bristol turned down an application to fund the surgery so the family set about raising £30,000 to cover the cost of surgery and the intensive post-operative physiotherapy Evie requires.
Friends and family organised fundraising events but also people who did not know Evie were moved by her situation and took part in sponsored cycles and sales to help fund the life-changing operation.
Miss Skidmore was not expecting Evie to have her surgery until this month but after a cancellation she was able to have the operation at the end of October and has already made strides since.
Her mother said that within five days of the procedure Evie was up on her feet.
There was a three-week stay in hospital following the operation before Evie was allowed home.
She is now having physiotherapy four times a week, has a treadmill to help with her walking practice and has been swimming to help with her muscles.
"I was looking at the programme we have been given to do with her in the water and it says about when Evie can stand independently and I thought 'Oh gosh, my daughter will be able to do that'," Miss Skidmore, 29, said.
"She's also got some little calf muscles on the back of her legs now, which she never had before.
"Evie does something new and is getting stronger every day – you can really see how she is getting stronger. She is able to bring her legs up for herself now and says 'Look at my feet'. She's named them Ellie and Abby and says 'Look what they can do'."
The youngster, who started at Avon Primary in September, has now gone back to school part-time and has seen an improvement in her work since the surgery.
"There are other things that you don't think it will affect," Miss Skidmore said.
"She has struggled with her handwriting and could not write at all because the tightness affected her so much, but she can write her name now and she is more expressive with her hands, which I hadn't expected.
"She had a special bike with a back rest on the saddle and sides to it but now all that has come off so it is like a new bike.
"It has been so quick."
Miss Skidmore, who also has a one-year-old son Jack, said that she was overwhelmed by the support of people who helped raise the money for Evie's operation.
"It is amazing that this has happened because of the help of so many other people," she said.
"I have made a point of keeping her Facebook page updated because I think they deserve to know how much their money has helped her."
Evie had her operation at Frenchay Hospital, which was the first in the UK to offer the procedure.
Since May last year, when they carried out the first operation, 36 children from across the country have had the procedure. Half were funded by the local NHS trusts where the children came from, the rest had to be funded by families.