A boy with cerebral palsy so severe that doctors said he would never walk is now set to take his first steps – thanks to donations from strangers towards a private operation.
The parents of little Pranav Prudhvi set up a JustGiving page to raise £80,000 to take the seven-year-old to America earlier this year for life-changing surgery on his spine.
This month, Pranav rewarded their efforts by standing unaided for the very first time.
Most importantly he is free of the pain that has plagued him all his life due to the tightness of his leg muscles.
“He is doing really good,” said his mum Usha, who lives on Oakhill.
“Before the operation he was really stiff, he did not have the flexibility to move his legs. There’s a long way to go but this is life changing.”
Born 10 weeks premature and weighing just 3lb, Pranav was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was just over a year old.
Doctors told Usha and her husband Ravi that his condition was so severe that treatment on the NHS would be nonviable – meaning Pranav would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
“We dared to dream,” said Usha, who wanted her son to be as independent as possible.
They researched a spinal operation called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy that is carried out in America and has helped hundreds of youngsters with cerebral palsy to walk.
Doctors at St Louis Children’s hospital in Missouri agree Pranav would be an ideal candidate for the surgery, which would remove the tightness in his legs and help them build strength.
But the operation and aftercare would cost £100,000, and after cashing in all their savings, Usha and Ravi were £80,000 short.
Usha, who has to give up her job as an IT consultant to look after her son, said “We were hoping he could have the surgery since the age of 5. At first we were not brave or confident enough to ask for money. I started looking for a job where I could work from home. It was not possible.”
She launched the JustGiving page two years ago and it raised £63,000. Meanwhile she and Ravi threw themselves into a series to fundraising events – including a £50k walk, to boost the fund.
She said: “When I look back, I think because of his Facebook page people were inspired by him. They could see how hard he worked. He is always making people laugh and he has never let his condition stop him. He would always say to me ‘This won’t stop me, mamma.’ I am so proud of him."
Pranav flew to America for the surgery seven months ago and has had specialist physiotherapy ever since.
He can already walk up to 30m using his frame and can use the toilet unaided. And, of course, he is standing unsupported for the first time in his life.
It is hoped one day Pranav, who dreams of being a doctor or a policeman when he grows up, will be able to walk long distances, possibly with the aid of crutches.
The family are still fundraising to help meet the cost of his aftercare, which includes monthly physiotherapy sessions in Cardiff. Each session costs thousands of pounds - visit the JustGiving page.
Usha and Ravi have thanked the people who donated to make the operation possible. They say they have been overwhelmed by the “beautiful kindness of strangers.”
Usha said: "There was one anonymous donation of £700. I wish I could go and thank that person. The kindness and generosity of people is really amazing. It’s a beautiful thing in the world that there are people out there who will help."
Pranav's story was this week on a Channel 4 documentary airing called Save My Child.
The documentary shows the emotional impact that crowdfunding to help a child’s life can have on parents.