'She did what she needed to do': Girl, 8, learns to walk for Holy Communion

An eight-year-old girl who travelled to America for surgery to help her walk has seen her dream come true making her way up the aisle at her First Holy Communion in a much-loved pair of shoes.

Anna Browne, from Mallow, Co Cork had selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery at a hospital in Missouri last August after her family and well-wishers raised a staggering €100,000 for her private operation.

Prior to the groundbreaking operation, she was in a wheelchair and could only walk very short distances.

Anna has a brain injury, known as bilateral PVL of the brain. She also has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy which restricts movement of her lower limbs.

Her mother Evelyn, told PJ Coogan on Cork's 96FM, that if she hadn't undergone the surgery last August she wouldn’t have made it up the aisle for her Communion last Saturday.

Anna Browne from Mallow, Co Cork in her Holy Communion dress and shoes. Photo: 96FM.
Anna Browne from Mallow, Co Cork in her Holy Communion dress and shoes. Photo: 96FM.

"Without that surgery, I could put my life on her being in a wheelchair on Saturday. She had those shoes on until 11.15 on Saturday evening. And she took them off and said 'I told you I could do it'."

"The happiness came from inside out. She was beaming. She was so excited.

She said last week, 'do you know what the best thing is about the surgery? I am not so different anymore. I hate being different.' Every child does.

In June 2017, Anna was diagnosed with a brain injury which unfortunately had been there since birth.

Evelyn said the diagnosis made sense because Anna was struggling in school and her walk was unusual. Her legs had also started to fail her. The surgery Anna underwent isn't available in Ireland.

Evelyn stresses that they were extremely lucky because they raised the €100,000 required in just 22 weeks.

She says the Communion day was a dream come true.

My mum had tears in her eyes and she said 'she looks so free and so relaxed.' Some days I don't see how far she has come.

"When we came out of the church my sister said you walked in front of her she was walking behind you. We couldn't take our eyes off Anna a few months ago. She did it without splints. She did what she needed to do."

Evelyn adds that they will be forever grateful for the kindness of all those who fundraised for Anna. Whilst they are back to reality today with physio treatment she feels that the future is bright for her child.

Anna plans to have her special communion shoes framed.

"She usually wears shoes to facilitate her ankle-foot orthosis so it was special to wear occasion wear."

Evelyn adds the Communion Day was more than they could ever have hoped for.

“Twelve months ago we would have never been able to consider anything like this but taking Anna to the US for surgery was the best thing we ever did. We are so grateful to everyone who fundraised for giving her this opportunity.”

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