A BOY hailed by his mum as her ‘hero’ is learning to walk after landmark surgery to reverse symptoms of his cerebral palsy.

Brave five-year-old Thomas Balmer has embraced his newfound mobility after a life-changing operation to combat chronic stiffness in his muscles.

Parents Nicci Brassey and Brian Balmer feared he would be living life in a wheelchair by the time he was a teenager, and this time last year ramped up a fundraising campaign called Help Thomas 2 Dance to pay for pioneering surgery.

Six months after the selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), Thomas is making determined progress in intensive physiotherapy, even managing to walk a record 117 unaided steps in one session.

Oxford Mail:

For his family, who live in Florence Park, it was a moment they had barely dared to dream of.

Miss Brassey said: “He is literally taking things in his stride.

“I really don’t think we could have hoped to be where we are now.

“The relief is immense, it’s so exciting.

“Life is certainly full of more hope now rather than fear.”

In a blog post on the Help Thomas 2 Dance website last week, the mother-of-two said of Thomas: “Some people never get to meet their hero. I gave birth to mine.”

Thomas was born 10 weeks premature alongside twin brother Dylan, weighing less than three pounds each.

Oxford Mail:

Aged two, Thomas was diagnosed with the neurological condition cerebral palsy, which causes muscle stiffness (spasticity) in his legs and meant he could only walk using a walker or sticks.

He was accepted for the SDR at Bristol Children’s Hospital in September, a costly operation involving dividing nerve roots in the spinal cord to remove spasticity.

He has since taken part in crucial physiotherapy, sometimes twice a day, including sessions at Footsteps Foundation in Dorchester.

Miss Brassey said the past six months have been ‘all-consuming’ but Thomas and his brother – both pupils at Comper Foundation Stage School in East Oxford - had been ‘utterly amazing’.

The 44-year-old, a specialist teacher at Cheney School, said: “Despite the massive amount of effort Thomas has put in over these six months, we have a very happy boy who gets a lot of joy out of life.

“Without the spasticity keeping his body and mind in an almost permanent state of tension, Thomas is freer in so many ways.

“He is less fearful of new experiences and places and so much more active, faster, and his movement is more fluid.

“He’s braver and more determined, and he even says ‘let me do it’ or ‘I won’t give up’ when he is trying to do something difficult.

“It’s lovely seeing little things that others take for granted, like him being able to sit cross-legged on the floor to play games and climb up on his chair himself ready for dinner.”

Although Thomas is yet to start walking in day-to-day life outside of physiotherapy, Miss Brassey said he is ‘getting there’.

She added: “Six months ago we couldn’t allow ourselves to hope for that outcome, but now we can.

“Seeing him embrace his new body and feel so much more confident, we know we have given him the best chance. That feels quite incredible.”

SDR was only available on the NHS to 140 children during a trial in 2014, for which results are due to be published in autumn.

The operation is only carried out at five hospitals in the UK and cost the Balmer family about £45,000 plus £15,000 per subsequent year of physiotherapy.

Much of the expense was covered by friends, family and supporters, as well as Oxford Mail readers after the fundraising drive appeared on the front of this paper in March last year.

Oxford Mail:

Miss Brassey extended a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped.

She hoped the operation would one day be freely available, but said she recognised how much financial strain public services are under.

She added: "If this was available on the NHS, think how many lives it would change."

The next Help Thomas 2 Dance fundraiser is a jumble sale at Florence Park Community Centre on Sunday, April 22.

It takes place from 2-5pm and features stalls including those selling clothes, toys and cakes.

To donate to Thomas’s family, visit treeofhope.org.uk/helpthomastodance.