North Otago girl Charlee McLachlan has started her long road to recovery after major surgery in the United States.
The 4-year-old was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 2014 after she underwent an MRI scan for an issue related to her lungs.
Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of disabling conditions which affect movement and posture.
In Charlee’s case, her right leg is shorter than the other and she struggles to do everyday things such as climbing into bed, getting dressed, sitting on the floor, sitting on a seat, walking, running and riding her bike.
Last week, she underwent a successful selective dorsal rhizotomy at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri.
The procedure involved the opening the lumbar area of her back, the removal of the spinal cord and electronic testing the sensory nerve fibres.
The operation is a permanent cure for spasticity.
Charlee’s mother, Anna McLachlan, said her daughter had come through the four-hour surgery well and had begun the recovery process.
“It went very, very well. She went in feeling perfect and came out feeling semi-happy, about as well as can be expected.
“She had a couple of wee setbacks in hospital. She got quite sick because of the pain and not wanting to have the medicine for the pain was causing her to feel quite unwell. Other than that, she’s doing amazing.”
She said the hospital’s physiotherapists were “absolutely amazed” by Charlee’s progress.
Charlee is having physio every day.
The process involves table-based activities, such as puzzles and games, which encourage her to lean forward and put her foot flat on the ground.
This is so the muscles in her right leg will eventually be able to tolerate full pressure.
She has also done some physical activity with the assistance of a small treadmill, or help from others.
For now, she gets around in a wheelchair.
The McLachlan family is scheduled to arrive back in New Zealand on May 11, when several months of rehabilitation three to four times a week await.
“It’s pretty full on,” Mrs McLachlan said of the process.
“We’re definitely looking forward to getting home and getting into the recovery at home.”
The family also plans to establish a foundation in Charlee’s name, to help other families affected by cerebral palsy.
She said the family was thankful for the support it had received over the past several months.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this for her if it wasn’t for the love and support of the thousands and thousands of people who have supported us.”