Carlton Colville boy’s operation flight
The dreams of three-year-old Owen Baldry will take a major step closer to reality next week.
Two years ago, his parents Carl and Sacha had their worst fears realised when they were told by doctors that Owen had a form of cerebral palsy and would probably never be able to walk.
But now – after support from people across Waveney and beyond – Owen is just days away from the life-changing operation that could lead to him taking his first steps unaided within two years.
Mr and Mrs Baldry, from Carlton Colville, flew out to America last night with three-year-old Owen and his sister Katie, still buoyed by the public response to the Owen's Wish2Walk appeal.
Thanks to the 'amazing' support, more than �68,000 has now been raised for the surgery – just over nine months after the Baldrys' plea to help this 'happy lad' walk for the first time.
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On Tuesday, Owen is due to undergo a four-hour operation at the St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri – a worldwide centre of excellence in the treatment of Cerebral Palsy Spasticity. The Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) surgery will be carried out by renowned American neurosurgeon Dr Tae Park.
Having left home early yesterday, with transport provided by Lowestoft-based Five One Taxis, the Baldrys were due to arrive in America last night. Tomorrow, they will head to the hospital for a consultation ahead of the all-important operation next week, before heading back to the UK on December 15.
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Mrs Baldry said: 'It will be the best Christmas present ever.
'Having Owen not in pain any more will be brilliant in itself. It's strange, I'm not nervous or worried about Owen in the operation – its more exciting in a way thinking about the New Year.'
Mr Baldry added: 'We are excited about the possible future and know its going to be hard work but who wouldn't do their best for their child? When we first heard about SDR, as parents you see hope.
'Dr Park has been doing this operation since 1986 and to date it has always been 100pc successful – not in terms of the child walking but taking away the spasticity and improving the child's quality of life.'
After his operation, Owen will be moved into intensive care and it is hoped is that by Wednesday – just 24 hours after the surgery on his spinal cord – nursing staff will have him out of bed and walking with their support.
Mrs Baldry said: 'Then it will be intense physio every day for about four weeks to build up his strength – in a way the physio Owen does will be more important than the actual operation.'
Praising the 'fantastic' generosity of all their supporters in helping raise the �50,000 needed for the surgery, a grateful Mr Baldry added: 'The local people have been amazing beyond all our dreams.
'We want to thank everyone that has donated, not just money but time as well.'
The appeal – which hit its initial target of �50,000 in June – was recently boosted by the Lowestoft Railway Hockey Club, which handed over �552.69 raised in memory of Bob Harness, one of its founding members and a local sporting stalwart.
The money raised since then will be used to cover Owen's future physiotherapy, with the Baldrys planning to donate any remaining funds to help other children in the same situation as Owen.
A month ago, Mr Baldry's manager at Smith Bros in Cooke Road gave a �1,000 donation to help buy Owen a specially-adapted trike. Mr Baldry added: 'I'd like to thank my boss Roy Smith for the donation and also for all the time I've had off this year and the next five weeks – he has been so good and understanding on this.
'Owen has become so independent with the trike. It has given him a new lease of life – he loves it."
?For more information on the appeal, visit www.owenswish2walk.co.uk
?For more on his journey, follow 'Owen's sdr dream' on Facebook.