Walking into a winter wonderland

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DESPITE spending most of her young life as a quadriplegic suffering from cerebral palsy, eight-year-old Eve Williams is now walking on her own thanks to an “unbelievable” operation in the USA.


Eve’s mother Gina is originally from Dungiven but now lives in England with her husband David. They will soon be travelling back to Ireland for Christmas, and many of Eve’s relatives will see her in the airport, walking for the first time.

The family have been fundraising for considerable time to raise the huge sums necessary to send Eve to the USA for her life-changing operation.

The Sentinel first reported on the family’s fund-raising efforts when Eve’s 12-year-old cousin Cahir organised a ‘Musical Extravaganza’ in Dungiven.

Local fundraising efforts, combined with similar generosity in England and even further afield, meant Eve was able to have her operation and Mum Gina said “the outcome’s been amazing.”

She explained: “It is unbelievable when you see what she was like before - she couldn’t even put her foot on the floor.

“It is the most amazing thing ever, she’s only three months down the line and we are talking about moving her out of the walker. We could never even have thought of that before.”

Eve received her operation in St Louis, USA by Dr TS Park and his team. Eve’s mother Gina said: “When we first saw him he told us she could be doing independent, unassisted walking in a year – that’s kind of mind-blowing.”

She added: “It is such a specialist place. He (Dr Park) developed the operation – his team is phenomenal, right down to the staff nurses in the ward.”

Her operation involved a form of SDR (Selective Dorsal Rhizhotomy) developed by Dr Park. A vertebra was selected and operated on, freeing up some of the stiffness in Eve’s muscles which was causing her to be unable to move around.

Gina explained the recovery process: “She has to learn how to get her muscles to work like you or I use them. She is doing it for the first time in her life and she is eight-years-old.”

Whilst Gina said that she still cannot believe that Eve is now walking, she did express anger that she and her family had to go to such lengths: “The government won’t fund the operation – even though Eve, the way she is now, is costing the NHS a lot less than what she would have been. All the equipment, the wheelchairs and everything else needs changing once every so often, so in the long-term it would actually save money.

“It makes me so angry – but we knew we had to do it for Eve. When we were there, there were maybe 10-12 families from England and Ireland. There could be another family out there who need the same operation but can’t get it. There is a group called SDR UK who are campaigning to have it brought in here.”