High hopes for Annabelle Harrison-Rowles quest to finally walk
JOYOUS Annabelle Harrison-Rowles could make her first independent steps within the next year.
The Coombe Hill youngster is in a walker for the first time, after her family raised £55,000 to send her for an operation in the USA.
When the four-year-old was born 12 weeks prematurely, she weighed just 2lbs 9oz.
As a result, she has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, and has never been able to walk.
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As she became a toddler she started watching other youngsters running around and playing, and all she wanted to do was join them.
Her grandfather Michael Harrison said: "She is now almost four years old and is a really beautiful, bright, bubbly little girl, but she has never walked unaided.
"Every day, Annabelle dreams of walking – just like her big sister and her other friends."
It was heartbreaking for her parents Tim and Tarma to watch her crying in pain because of the tightness in her limbs.
They watched helplessly until they learned an operation called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) could help.
But it was not offered on the NHS, and her family faced the prospect of having to raise £55,000 before they could send her for specialist care in the USA.
Tim, a lawyer, took on challenges to raise the money.
He ran from Cheltenham to London in three days and kayaked 136 miles down the Thames and, with help from donations, raised enough money to take Annabelle to Missouri for her surgery.
The little girl is now able to move around using a walker – and the delight on her face is evident.
Dr Tae Park, the chief neurosurgeon at St Louis Children's Hospital, now expects Annabelle will "be able to walk independently and to take her first steps within a year".
She was in surgery for five hours and four days after her operation was doing so well and feeling so little pain that she was able to start her physiotherapy.
"When Dr Park saw Annabelle walking with her sticks unaided, he repeated his opinion that 'she will walk – no problem, she will definitely walk'," said Mr Harrison.
"Annabelle has a long road ahead, involving an excruciating daily program of intensive physiotherapy.
However, she is now truly on the journey towards making her dream come true."
More money is needed to fund Annabelle's intense physiotherapy sessions, for specialist equipment and follow up treatment in the USA.
This weekend Tim is doing the Three Peaks Challenge, climbing Snowdon, cycling 200 miles to Scafell Pike before climbing the mountain, followed by a 250-mile cycle journey for a Ben Nevis ascent.
"We have been overwhelmed by the incredible kindness and generosity of complete strangers," said Michael.
"People who had never met Annabelle have donated."
He added that the committee at SCOPE in Cirencester had given £500 recently as well.
To support Annabelle, visit www.justgiving.com/AnnabellesDreamE3P.