Film could help ‘open doors’

Film crew: Graham Henderson (right) is pictured with Nico Phillips, the film's director (left) and UK producer Peter Fraser.'Contributed photograph
Film crew: Graham Henderson (right) is pictured with Nico Phillips, the film's director (left) and UK producer Peter Fraser.'Contributed photograph

A MONTROSE man’s bid to have life-changing surgical treatment for cerebral palsy will be featured in an international documentary, currently in production.

Well-known local businessman Graham Henderson got in touch with the production team of the film, ‘The Nerves of Us’, after they put out an appeal for participants through Facebook and, after meeting the producer and director in London last week, has been deemed suitable for inclusion.

The project is the first major film to focus on cerebral palsy (CP) in adults and will follow people living with CP in China, Russia, the US, UK, India and South Africa, showing how different cultures define disability and how differing attitudes influence available treatments.

A non-genetic condition caused by brain damage at birth, all forms of Cerebral Palsy are life-long disabilities with, in most cases, severe impairment of mobility in the muscle-tightness form.

It will also highlight the spinal procedure selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), which, although it has been around for almost 30 years and has transformed many lives, is still regarded as a controversial operation and the documentary will also examine why the surgical option is not offered to more adults.

Although SDR is usually carried out only on children and teenagers, some adults, including the film’s director Nico Phillips, have undergone the operation and benefited as a result. Graham, who has run a successful gardening business for 20 years, is currently pursuing the possibility of having the same procedure carried out. If successful, at 44, he would be one of the oldest people in the UK to have the operation.

He said: “They were interested because I’ve set up my own business and have done pretty much everything for myself. Nico has had the operation himself, after fighting for 12 years to get it, so he understands my situation. My condition’s deteriorating, although I’m still able to work and keep the business going, but I’m considering surgery if I can get a doctor to do it.”

Graham has been pursuing the idea for the last 18 months and has already had one consultation, at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol in November, although he was assessed as unsuitable due to his age.

He continued: “This is the big problem. There are only three or four surgeons in the world that would do it and the doctor in Bristol won’t operate on anyone over the age of eight years old. He told me I should be more active which, for someone with my job, is a bit laughable. If I was sitting at home doing nothing, I’d see the point.”

Mr Phillips, who is from New York, was 28 when he had SDR and has given Graham details of surgeons in the United States who might be able to help him.

Graham said: “I’ll be working with him but I’m also pursuing other options. The operation would help the tight muscle pull in my leg and I’ve been told it would also help my speech, which would mean that I’d be able to keep up my way of life and keep on working. The last thing I want is to eventually be in a chair.

“I’m hoping this film will help to open doors for me.”

Although the filming schedule has yet to be finalised, the production team is keen to film Graham at home and at work and, once completed, the documentary will be circulated to international film festivals, TV stations and as an educational resource.

More about ‘The Nerves of Us’ can be found online at http://nervesofus.com/, http://www.facebook.com/thenervesofus, http://twitter.com/TheNervesOfUs and http://www.youtube.com/nervesofus.