Lancaster schoolboy recovering well after life-changing surgery to help him walk

Reilly with mum Justine.
Reilly with mum Justine.

Lancaster boy Reilly McCarthy is standing tall after undergoing successful surgery to help change his life.

The five-year-old is currently in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where he has had an operation to help him walk more freely.

Reilly McCarthy.

Reilly McCarthy.

Reilly has cerebral palsy, and has undergone Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) treatment, which is no longer available on the NHS.

According to his mum Justine, Reilly is already able to stand up straighter and sit cross legged more comfortably than ever before.

Justine hopes Reilly will be discharged at the end of next week, and he will then continue his physio from Lancaster.

Justine, 34, said that while there had been some difficulties along the way, Reilly is recovering well.

Reilly McCarthy.

Reilly McCarthy.

“There was some complications in regards to surgery and so it hasn’t been as successful as we had hoped, and looks like he will need more surgery later in the year to release the tendon in his right ankle,” she said.

“He is however doing very well and working hard with physio.

“He is finding it somewhat difficult at times and learning to stand, sit, and walk completely differently is also proving a difficult task for Reilly but I am sure he will get there eventually.

“He has never been able to stand up so straight before nor sit cross legged so comfortably, like he can now.

“He is doing really well. I think he is hesitant as he knows it will hurt or stretch so he doesn’t like to try, but then he tries and realises he can do it a bit better now.”

The surgery was able to go ahead after Reilly’s family reached their £21,000 fundraising goal for the treatment.

Reilly’s five-hour operation involved a surgeon making an incision in his back close to his spine to test each nerve to find those causing the spasticity in his leg, and then cut them, in order to reduce the spasticity in his lower limbs.

Reilly is now learning to walk again through physio twice a day for the three weeks during his stay at the hospital.

Once Reilly is back home in Lancaster, the physio will continue at least three times a week with a physiotherapist.

The physiotherapist will also give Justine exercises to do with Reilly on the other days.

It can take up to two years to see the full benefit of this operation.

“We obviously have a long way to go and it will be trying times but I will be forever grateful to those who donated and helped raise this money to give my son the best possible opportunity,” Justine said.

Reilly, who goes to Halton St Wilfrid’s CE Primary School along with his older brother Carter, eight, was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy after being born prematurely at 30 weeks, weighing just 3lb 11oz.

When Justine became concerned about his delayed development, Reilly underwent several assessments and an MRI scan which confirmed his condition.

Cerebral palsy affects muscle control and movement. The spasticity means muscle tone is tight and stiff, causing a decrease in range of movement as well as pain.

However, despite his difficulties, Reilly is progressing better than expected.

“I was told he may never walk unaided but he is such a determined little boy he now walks unaided,” Justine said.

“He walks on his tiptoes and tries to run and jump without falling over.

“He has such a gait that he becomes tired and suffers aches and pains regularly.

“As Reilly grows his muscles become tighter making walking more and more difficult. He sees his brother Carter play football and he wants to play.

“He wants to join in with everything Carter does, but he is starting to acknowledge he hasn’t got the balance or stability.

“But he is always so happy. He just brings so much joy to everyone’s lives. He’s touched so many people with how happy he is and he never lets it get him down.

“I have never seen a kid so happy when he has so many problems.”