Katherine was born 10 weeks early and spent seven weeks in hospital. When she was eight months old, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and spastic diplegia, which affects her legs.
“I was an absolute mess and in tears,” says Katherine’s mum, Cindy. “I had so many questions as to what this would mean, how it would affect Katherine and us as well. The good news was that she had been diagnosed under 12 months of age and could now start therapy which was good for her future.”
In Katherine’s case, her symptoms are moderate. She has regular physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, and occupational therapy for her fine motor skills.
“She has had botox injections every six months ever since she was 19 months old,” says Cindy. “This relaxes the muscles, helps them become more supple, more flexible and so makes walking normally much easier for her.”
Katherine is a bright girl and attends her local state school. She is loved and protected by the kids there. “They help her in and out of her chair and write cards for her when she’s in hospital,” Cindy says. “She has lots of friends and everyone wants to help her.”
Katherine’s condition attracts attention from other kids, but the confident six-year-old is quick to explain it to them. “Kids will ask her, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ and she will answer, ‘I’ve got cerebral palsy, that’s why my legs don’t work very well’,” Cindy says.
Katherine’s friends at school missed her recently when she was in Sydney for two months for an operation on her spine. She had selective dorsal rhizotomy, where spasticity-causing nerves were identified and severed to cut spasticity out of the legs. Katherine’s friends made extra things for her while she was away, and kept her some little gifts that the class had been given.
Katherine is now learning how to stand up and walk again. She has had intense physiotherapy which will continue for 16 months after the surgery.
“She has exceeded all expectations and made a great recovery,” said Cindy. “Her progress is fantastic! Life has changed for Katherine, and for us too. This gives her much more independence. She shouldn’t need more botox or as much orthopaedic surgery now.
“There is no reason in the future why she can’t have a full time job and live independently. Her condition doesn’t stop her doing what she likes.”