WALKING into school on his own for the first time is the next goal for Montrose boy Riley Murray, who returned home at the weekend after a life-changing operation.
Just a few weeks after the surgery to help him walk, Riley, who has cerebral palsy, is continuing to amaze his parents and doctors.
The six-year-old Lochside Primary pupil, who underwent the operation at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri at the end of August, is now getting around the house with the aid of a walker rather than a wheelchair - between three and sixth months earlier than was first thought.
His progress has been such that his doctors are now predicting that the youngster will be mobile with the help of crutches within a year and could eventually be able to walk indoors without the help of any walking aids.
From the start of his rehabilitation Riley has been determined to “try out his new legs” and, as reported in the Review last month, took his first assisted steps at a physiotherapy session just three days after his spinal operation.
He is also, with help, able to negotiate the stairs in his house and there are hopes he will also eventually be able to manage them by himself.
His mum Trudy this week said he is continuing to exceed their expectations and the thought of returning to school after the tattie holidays is driving him on.
She said: “We’ve taken his wheelchair away from him at home completely and he’s walking from room to room with his walker. He still needs to build up strength as he hasn’t used his legs for more than six years but he’s doing great and we’re seeing improvements every day.
“There has been a huge improvement in his sitting balance. The spasticity used to make his legs come up but now he doesn’t have to fight to keep his balance.
“He could be walking on crutches in a year but eventually could probably get around indoors without them if there are things to hold on to to help keep his balance. That has far exceeded our expectations.
“His goal is definitely to walk back into his classroom on the first day back and he’s working hard at the moment to be able to do that. We visited family on Sunday and he wanted to walk up their paths to surprise them. We just can’t believe it and can’t get used to him standing upright.”
During the three-hour procedure, carried out at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, surgeon Dr T.S. Park removed an inch of Riley’s spine and cut nerves behind it which were causing his spasticity.
He now faces intensive physiotherapy to help built up his strength to the point when he when will be able to use crutches and the fund-raising campaign Riley’s First Steps, which raised money for the trip after attracting huge support from family, friends and the Montrose public, will continue to help assist with that.
Trudy said: “It has been more difficult to break old habits since we’ve been home. He used to crawl around the house so we’re trying to break that pattern.
“When he wants to go from room to room he’s having to walk but we have a strengthening and stretching programme from the hospital we have to follow which at the moment is a couple of hours a day. They recommend we should be doing about five hours per day for six months to get the full potential from the surgery.”
A video showing Riley’s progress will be sent to the hospital in six months’ time and he will make another trip to St Louis next year for a follow-up examination.
Trudy added: “It has been such an emotional trip and this has been completely life-changing, for Riley especially. We’re so grateful to Dr Park and his team for giving him this chance for a better and easier life.”