Just eight weeks after undergoing life-changing surgery in the US Anna Browne’s most cherished dream of once again being able to dance is set firmly within her sights.
Last June, Anna was diagnosed with a significant brain injury, bilateral PVL of the brain, which resulted in spastic diplegia, a condition that severely inhibited movement in her lower limbs.
The condition meant that as Anna grew it would become more debilitating, severely impacting her mobility and restricting her from doing the things that most children of her age take for granted – including in her particular case dancing.
Her story tugged the heartstrings of people from across the country, with a GoFundMe account set up to cover the cost of corrective surgery and post-op therapy raising more than €120,000.
This meant that in August Anna was able to undergo an elective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, a procedure to identify and sever the nerves causing spasticity in her lower limbs.
Anna clambering up an indoor climbing wall as she recently celebrated her eighth birthday has shown just how far she has come since the surgery.
Speaking on C103 Cork Today Show, Anna’s mother Evelyn said that she would never have thought this time last year that would have been possible.
“God no, not a hope,” replied Evelyn. “She did struggle and was a lot slower than the other kids, but she is very determined. She sat down next to me after and was so proud. She said ‘I know I am slow and it’s tough, but I can do it. I couldn’t do it a few months ago’,” Evelyn said on the C103 Cork Today Show.
“At that moment I knew we had made the right decision. Anna is expressing every day how much better her body is feeling. Her walking might never be 100 per cent perfect, but the simple task of climbing a wall, something that any eight-year-old should be able to do, has given her options. That door was closed to her before and we did not realise it was that jammed shut,” she added.
Evelyn said that watching Anna recover after the surgery was one of the hardest things she has ever had to do in her life, but within a matter of days realised that Anna was feeling the benefits of the operation.
She said that initially Anna was in great pain, something surgeons had warned Evelyn about, but recalled how on the first day of post-op physio Anna told her that she felt her body had “just popped” and that “everything now felt free.”
“By day five of six Anna was taking her first steps and has excelled at her physio since. They said she would not be at pre-op stage until six of seven weeks. We are only hitting that now and it is amazing to how she has progressed,” said Evelyn.
“Anna has said the elastic (in her body) is now broken and every movement and transition is easier for her. People have even commented that they can see how happy she is just by the look on her face, she looks free.”
Evelyn said that Anna undergoes daily physio, making sure it is done early in the morning so she does not miss out on going to school.
“She is not yet able to dance, hopefully that will happen after Christmas. He surgeon, Dr Park, is coming to Ireland in April to check on progress and he wants to see her Irish dancing then,” said Evelyn.
“I still can’t believe we are talking about Anna being able to do things without us having to worry. We took her out of a wheelchair at the airport in Missouri and she has not been back in it since.
“She could walk the length of Mallow town now, something she could never have done before.”
Evelyn said that none of this would have been possible without the help of the media in helping highlight Anna’s story and the generosity of the people who donated to the fundraising drive.
“That help is what got Anna there, that is what they have done for my daughter,” she said.