Dereham youngster prepares for life-changing op as appeal nears �75,000

Christmas wishes have already come true for Dereham youngster Blake Barley, whose phenomenal fundraising appeal neared the �75,000 mark this week.

The three-year-old and his family are making final preparations for their trip to America, where Blake will undergo the surgery made possible by supporters from across Norfolk.

His parents, Luke and Debbie, were overjoyed when the appeal's �50,000 target was reached in October after just 15 weeks and watched in amazement as the money continued to pour in.

'It's been phenomenal – totally mind-blowing!' Mrs Barley said. 'When we launched the appeal, we anticipated that we would have to carry on fundraising once we got home. Now we can focus solely on getting Blake strong again after the operation.'

Blake, who uses a walking frame to get about, was born 10 weeks early and developed a form of cerebral palsy after suffering a bleed on his brain.

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Permanent stiffness in his leg muscles means he can only walk on tiptoes and must wear uncomfortable leg splints 23 hours a day to force his heels to the floor.

After researching potential treatments online, Mrs Barley came across a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), which severs the nerves responsible for sending faulty messages to the legs.

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Demand for the operation means it is not readily available on the NHS, and paying for private treatment in this country was not an option.

It is likely Blake will get worse before he gets better, and the journey towards his first unaided steps is only just beginning. He will need intensive physiotherapy when he returns from the United States, and the additional money will be used to get the little lad back on his feet.

Luke and Debbie, from Toftwood, have so far spent �2,300 on specialist equipment, including a practice staircase, so they can get to work as soon as they are home. 'Blake doesn't understand what's going at the moment, but all the children very excited about going on an aeroplane,' Mrs Barley said. 'The less he knows, the better because then he can't worry.

'Once it's done we will just have to soldier on with whatever comes next – there's no way of knowing how much strength he will have in his legs.'

The family will travel to and from the airport in style thanks to RJ Bartram and Son Funeral Services in Dereham, which is providing them with a limousine and driver.

'It's really lovely of them,' Mrs Barley said. 'It's another thing we don't have to worry about now. We are absolutely stunned that, in such difficult financial times, people can be so thoughtful and generous.

'Luke and I can't believe it's finally happening.'

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