�50,000 appeal launched to help little Blake to walk

Please help to make little Blake Barley's dream of walking come true....

That was the plea issued this week to the people of the Dereham area as a �50,000 fundraising appeal was launched to pay for life-changing surgery in America.

The three-year-old Toftwood lad was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy at the age of 23 months and relies on a walking frame to move around, to balance and to play.

Permanent stiffness – known as spasticity – in his leg muscles means he can only walk on tiptoes.

And Blake must wear uncomfortable leg splints 23 hours a day to force his heels down to the floor. He also suffers chronic pain in his legs, back and hips, and doctors have warned that he will need a wheelchair by the time he starts nursery school in September. And yet for all this adversity he maintains a bright and cheery outlook on life.

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His parents Debbie and Luke hope to raise enough money to fly Blake to the American state of Missouri to undergo a pioneering procedure to sever some of the nerves responsible for sending the faulty messages that tell his muscles to tense.

Demand for the operation means it is not readily available on the NHS, and its limited availability in the UK has ruled out the option of paying for private treatment.

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So, the couple have launched the Blake's Wish 2 Walk appeal – backed by the Dereham Times – in the hope that members of the community will contribute to the cost of the surgery and help little Blake to take his first steps. 'He is physically unable to walk or even stand independent of aids and cannot enjoy the same playtimes as his brother, sister and friends,' said Mrs Barley.

'The splints are hot and sweaty, and Blake has to wear socks, splints and shoes all day, every day, to force his feet flat on the floor. He can't wear normal shoes and cries when I put his night splints on.'

After researching potential treat-ments, the couple were excited to find an operation called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) that promises to improve mobility permanently.

'Although cerebral palsy is not degenerative, the associated effects such as pain, fatigue, muscle contractures and early-onset arthritis, to name a few, are, and Blake's future mobility is very uncertain without the operation,' Mrs Barley said.

'SDR will permanently reduce the spasticity causing all his problems and make him less likely to need orthopaedic surgery to lengthen his muscles later on. He's not going to be walking perfectly: it's not a miracle cure. But we believe it's his best option. If there's something we can do to make him more physically independent, we want to do it.'

If the money can be raised, it is hoped that Blake might one day walk completely unaided and be able to do all the things his big sister Beth, aged nine, and brother Bryce, seven, can do.

As well as the corrective leg splints, the youngster undergoes physiotherapy and hydrotherapy and has painful botox injections in his legs to improve his condition.

'They all treat the symptoms and not the problem,' Mrs Barley said.

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