Little Joseph, four, walks normally for the first time
LITTLE Joseph Skidmore has taken his first normal walking steps after a life-changing operation.
The four-year-old's fight against crippling spastic diplegia has proved inspirational to hundreds of Cheltenham and Gloucester people who raised the £35,000 needed to pay for the vital surgery.
His parents Shelley and Chris, from Longlevens, in Gloucester, were left amazed as he started physiotherapy in a bid to achieve a normal walking pattern.
Mrs Skidmore, 31, said: "It is not easy deciding to put your child through any type of operation, especially this one, but if we had the choice we would do it all over again, in a heartbeat.
"This has been the next big step in changing his life forever."
Joseph has gone from having knees that were clamped together and feet twisted at 90 degree angles to walking with a proper posture with the support of a zimmer frame.
The risky operation, on July 17, took four hours at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol.
Surgeons had to carefully remove bones in Joseph's spine to reach his nerve roots, where the nerves that were causing the spasticity were cut.
If the operation had gone wrong it could have left him paralysed for life.
But, remarkably, he was home after just three days and now only has a small scar on his back as evidence of it ever having taken place.
His mum said: "It was difficult keeping a four-year-old boy in bed to rest for three days, but he did it and it was great to have him home.
"When he took his first steps my head was focused on the physiotherapy and what he needed to do, but later I thought 'wow'.
"I couldn't believe he'd done it."
The next two years will be focused on improving his walking further, she added.
The operation was made possible after generous donations from Cheltenham and Gloucester people who were left moved by his plight. The £35,000 was raised within just two months, after his parents were told that the NHS would not pay for it.
If Joseph had not had the surgery he could have been wheelchair-bound by his teens.
Mrs Skidmore said: "He's already looking much better now but there's a long way to go.
"This has given him the ability to do the sort of things we used to take for granted.
"But none of it would have been possible without the very generous donations and the wonderful fundraising that took place in Gloucester and Cheltenham."