Our twins are ‘ideal’ for op

The Sutcliffe twins, Katie (left) and Emma.
The Sutcliffe twins, Katie (left) and Emma.
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Twins Katie and Emma Sutcliffe have been told they are ideal candidates for life-changing surgery to help them walk unaided.

Katie and Emma, who are 15, suffer from spastic diplegic cerebral palsy and need wheelchairs to get around as the condition causes stiffness and pain in their legs.

The Guardian is backing the Twins Appeal, set up by the twins’ family in a bid to raise £85,000 for pioneering treatment in America.

The operation and intensive therapy would see the girls walk unaided for the first time.

“The doctors said they feel that the girls are really good candidates for the surgery,” the twins’ mum Caroline said.

“It would reduce their spasticity and help their sitting and standing postures, their balance and overall level of comfort.

“They will be able to walk independently in protected environments; it will help them significantly.

“The treatment will permanently reduce their abnormal muscle tone, which is preventing them from walking independently.”

The procedure would be carried out by Dr T S Park, chief of neurosurgery at St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri.

Dr Park specialises in paediatric neurosurgery and treating children with cerebral palsy using the surgical procedure selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR). Dr Park, 65, said: “For more than two decades, I’ve done my best to tackle the problems inherent to cerebral palsy in patients still young enough to benefit from surgical intervention.

“SDR is the only surgery that can permanently reduce or eliminate spasticity for people with cerebral palsy and give them back mobility. Thus far, I’ve had the privilege of helping more than 2,300 individuals.

“While the procedure will not cure cerebral palsy, I have seen it improve quality of life for children and their families.

“Children who were once told they would never walk can now swim, dance, and play with their friends. That is extremely gratifying, to say the least.”

SDR, first developed in the 1980s, involves cutting some of the sensory nerve fibres at the base of the spine to achieve permanent relief from one of the symptoms of cerebral palsy, muscle spasticity, making it easier to walk.

Dr Park said: “The effect it has on children is quite remarkable.

“It clearly does make a huge difference in the way they walk and also they become more confident in their general well-being.”

Fundraising events for the Twins Appeal so far have included a zumbathon, coffee morning, cake sales and children’s triathlon.

This weekend, a boxing event at the Winter Gardens in Morecambe will be donating a percentage of its ticket sales to the appeal.

The event, organised by Coastal Boxing Promotions, will include a raffle and auction of sporting memorabilia, as well as collection boxes for the Twins Appeal.

The family has been overwhelmed by the response so far, which has seen more than £13,000 raised, including money from two pensioners who made donations after reading about the appeal in last week’s Guardian.

“We really appreciate people’s kindness and support,” Caroline said.

“We are very grateful that people will do this for us, particularly as we don’t even know some of the people.

“It’s very touching, and hopefully with everyone’s help we can achieve our target.”