Life-changing op offers Katie, 6, chance to walk

The family of a 6-year-old girl has expressed its delight after a hospital in the US agreed to carry out what may be a life-changing operation.

Katie Byrne, who can’t walk or stand independently, is scheduled to undergo the operation at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, in July — provided her family raises the €60,000 needed.

When she was nine months old, her parents Robert and Antoinette noticed Katie couldn’t crawl or sit unaided.

She had been born 12 weeks premature at the Erinville Hospital in Cork weighing 1.4kg, and remained in intensive care for four-and-a-half weeks.

After 17 months, Katie, who lives in Cobh, was diagnosed with spastic deplegic cerebral palsy and was referred to Enable Ireland in Ballintemple, Cork.

She has to use a walker to walk short distances but requires a wheelchair for anything longer.

However, the Missouri hospital has been carrying out successful operations in recent times on other children who suffer from the same condition.

Surgeons have severed some of the sensory nerve fibres that come from the muscles and enter the spinal cord, which enables children to walk on their own.

“We are absolutely ecstatic at the news she has been accepted for the operation. It will give her an independence she didn’t have. Simple things we take for granted, like opening a door, she can’t do for herself,” said Antoinette.

“We have been provisionally told she can have the operation in July. Katie’s been put on a list and we should have a firm date soon. July would be good because it would give us all of August to aid her recovery before she returns to school.”

Family and friends are now preparing various fundraisers to ensure operation costs can be met.

“We understand this is a huge amount of money. A bank account will be set up as soon as possible,” said Antoinette.

Anybody wishing to help with fundraising should email katiesdreamtowalk@gmail.com

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