LITTLE Oliver McConnell is standing tall for the first time in his life thanks to pioneering surgery and people’s generosity.

The three-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, underwent specialist surgery to remove a vertebrae and damaged nerves from the bottom of his spine to give him a chance of walking independently.

And since the operation in America, Oliver has taken his first steps holding hands and is walking with a frame.

Now his surgeon expects him to take his first independent steps within the next nine months, before his check-up back in the US next August.

Back home in Ambrosden, near Bicester, he now has daily intensive physiotherapy to strengthen his muscles, as well as home visits by a personal trainer and physiotherapist.

Mum Danielle, dad Barry, 31, a Staff Sergeant at Bicester Garrison, and brother Joshua, six, launched an appeal in April to raise the £72,000 to pay for his life-changing surgery and physiotherapy.

Immediately after the operation in August, Mrs McConnell, 30, said the only problem they had was trying to stop Oliver moving around.

She said: “We were dreading the aftermath and thought he was going to be in pain, but he didn’t seem to be at all.

“He came out of recovery and as soon as he was on the ward he was trying to climb out of bed.

“The surgeon came to do his rounds and said ‘Oliver you need to lie down’, so someone had to lie in bed with him for 24 hours to keep him there.”

Six days after his back surgery, Oliver had a second operation to reverse his club foot. Tendons in his foot were cut and his hamstring lengthened.

Mrs McConnell said: “His legs and feet are just amazing.

“He has never had straight flat feet. Now they are completely flat. It’s like someone has taken his legs away and given him new ones.

“He notices himself he can do things and says he has new feet. He’s biting his toes now and he’s never been able to do that before. It’s absolutely brilliant.

“They had him take a few steps before we left America and that was probably the most emotional day. He was holding hands and took about 20 steps.

“All we wanted was for Oliver to be happy and confident, and it has just exceeded all our expectations.”

In just seven months the Help Oliver Walk appeal raised £80,000 thanks to friends and colleagues who organised a host of events including auctions, cake sales, sponsored runs and walks, mountain climbs and a skydive.

And over four months, comrades of Staff Sergeant McConnell in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, and Bicester, ran, rowed or cycled the equivalent of 7,322km between the two places.