A NINE-year-old County Limerick boy looks set to see his dream of kicking a ball with his friends become a reality after successfully undergoing pioneering surgery in the US.
Glen Wilkie from Foynes was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which had prevented him from being able to sit or walk unaided.
However, having undergone major surgery at St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri last week, his mother Margaret said she is confident that her only son will take his first steps unaided within the next two years.
“It is a definite that he will walk, not straight away – within two years or less. They are saying two years, the physiotherapy is what is going to count,” said Margaret who is currently with Glen at the Hampton Inn and Suites hotel in Missouri.
Although Glen underwent major surgery lasting four hours the determined child was back in his wheelchair with four days, skating round on an ice rink, no less.
“Calpol is what he is taking for pain relief. He has come out of it very well. His age has a lot to do with it and his understanding,” Margaret noted.
The only person happier than Margaret about the surgery is Glen himself. “On the morning of his surgery, he was jumping around with excitement, telling everyone it was the best day of his life, because he’d waited so long for his operation.”
A few weeks ago, it looked like Glen’s operation was in jeopardy, as Margaret said she feared she could not raise the €60,000 to cover travel and operation expenses.
The journey was made possible however, thanks to the dogged determination of Margaret and her husband David to give him his best chance of independence – and by the generosity of the local community, of the wider community and of strangers.
Just before he underwent the surgery, Glen, a student of Foynes National School, posted a video message on his Facebook page updating all his friends back home.
“They give them what he calls himself ‘happy juice’ – medication to help him sleep before anything is done,” said Margaret.
Glen’s cerebral palsy has meant that he has never been able to walk on his own but gets about using a frame or wheelchair. The hope is that the neurosurgery pioneered in St Louis will change that. “Glen basically couldn’t get his heels on the ground, his legs were pure stiff but straight away after the surgery, I was totally amazed at how loose his legs were,” said Margaret.
During the surgery, a small incision was made in Glen’s back to allow the surgeons to disconnect the nerve endings causing the stiffness in his legs.
“It’s major surgery but it is a very, very simple procedure to help children with Glen’s condition to walk,” said Margaret who is being supported in Missouri by her husband David and David’s sister Sharon Wilkie. Glen’s sister, Sarah, is keeping up-to-date on his progress from Australia.
Glen is due to undergo further surgery on December 4 during which his hamstrings will be lengthened at the back of his knees, as well as his heel chords.
“He said the thing he’s most looking forward to do is being able to play football with his friends.”