MONTROSE youngster Riley Murray has taken his first steps, just days after a major operation to help him walk.
And the six-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, is already achieving more than was expected so soon after surgery, with doctors predicting that he could be walking with crutches within one to two years.
He is expected to be able to use a walking aid within three to six months.
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.
Mum Trudy this week said the effects have been “instant” and she and dad Dale are already seeing a “huge difference” in his movements.
She said: “His legs are so loose and sitting, dressing and taking him to the bathroom are already so much easier.”
Riley had to lie flat in bed for two days after the surgery to prevent leakage of spinal fluid which, Trudy said, was the biggest challenge as he is usually “extremely active”.
On the third day he had his first physiotherapy session when, assisted by one of the staff, he walked for the first time.
Trudy said: “He was still extremely weak and sedated at this point. At the end of the session Riley asked if he could try walking, he was desperate to try out his ‘new legs’.
“Assisted by the physio, Riley took around six to eight steps with flat feet and no scissoring (legs crossing). He had the biggest smile on his face and said afterwards ‘that was cooler than Disneyland’, which was just priceless.
“By day four Riley was back to his cheeky self and messing around with his little sister Layla. He has hardly complained of any pain, which is amazing.
“When I arrived one morning several days after the surgery Riley said to me ‘My legs are fixed and I’m going to walk just like everybody else’. It felt so great to say ‘you sure are Riley’”.
Riley, who up to now has had to rely on a wheelchair, now faces intensive physiotherapy to help him reach the stage when he can walk with crutches by himself but his parents believe he will be able to do so. They are also convinced that, despite the emotional rollercoaster leading up to his surgery, they have made the right decision for him.
Trudy added: “At our initial assessment Dr Park advised that he believes within three to six months Riley will be walking with a kaye walker, but he believes within one to two years, if Riley puts in enough physio, he should be walking with crutches.
“This is more than we could ever have hoped for. Riley still has a long road to travel and several years of intense physio ahead of him, but we believe he has the fight and determination to do it.
“We are so proud of our brave boy. After weeks of worrying we are so glad to see that we have made the right decision for Riley and we would urge anyone considering the surgery to get in touch with St Louis Children’s Hospital.”
Trudy also thanked everyone who has supported the family and, over the last few months, helped them to raise the £50,000 cost of the trip to the US.
She said: “It’s impossible to put into words how much we appreciate everybody’s support. It has been such an emotional time for the family and it still feels a bit surreal that we’re actually in St Louis and Riley’s has had the surgery.”
Riley’s progress can be followed on his Facebook page, Riley’s First Steps.