Friday 18 January 2019

Anna's dream to dance a step closer with each day

'She is getting stronger with each day and is managing to walk a few steps unaided'

Anna taking her first steps after the operation helped by a physiotherapist at the St Louis Children’s Hospital and her big sister Emma
Anna taking her first steps after the operation helped by a physiotherapist at the St Louis Children’s Hospital and her big sister Emma
Anna working out in the gym as she continues her recovery and therapy following her surgery. She is set to return home from the US to Mallow next Sunday

Bill Browne

After undergoing life-changing surgery in the US, Mallow girl Anna Browne is set to return home this coming weekend - with her most cherished ambition of being able to dance again firmly in her sights.

Last June seven-year old 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 Go Fund Me account set up to cover the cost of corrective surgery and post-op therapy raising more than €115,000. 

This meant that two weeks ago 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. 

Prior to the procedure surgeon Dr Tae Park promised Anna that she would dance again, a promise that he has kept, much to the delight of Anna and her mother, Evelyn, who, along with her other daughter Emma, has spent the last month in America with Anna.

Speaking to The Corkman on Wednesday from the US, Evelyn said they could not wait to get back on hone soil next Sunday. 

"So much has happened over the past month. At times it seemed time was dragging, but looking back now it has all passed so quickly. Thankfully, the procedure went just as Dr Park had promised and Anna is in great form," said Evelyn.

However, there were tough times during the days following the operation as Anna had to be sedated due to intense pain caused by muscle spasms.

"That was tough as Anna was in such great form in the days before the surgery. We were not really expecting her to be in so much pain, but thankfully that is now behind her and she doing really well. She is getting stronger with each passing day and is managing to walk a few steps unaided," said Evelyn. 

"It will take another three or four weeks before she gets back to how she was prior to the operation and will need a wheelchair to help her around for a while. But, the medical team are very happy with her progress."

It had been thought Anna might have to undergo a second procedure after the initial one, but this has now been put back for up to two years such is the good progress she has made since the operation.

"Despite all she has been through Anna is in great form. She told me that her body feels free, like the elastic has popped. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to hear her say these words," said Evelyn.

She said it had been a tough few weeks for the family "with a lot of tears and loneliness", particularly after Evelyn's husband, Roy, had to return  home to get their two boys ready to go back to school. 

"However, it has all been worth it. There is still a long road ahead with Anna having to undergo a lot of intensive therapy over the coming months but all of the signs are very positive," said Evelyn. 

"Dr Park is coming to Ireland next April to check up on Anna and said he expects to see her up and dancing when he arrives. That is her aim and I have no doubt that given her determination and will to dance once again, Dr Park will not be disappointed," she added.