Special gift for Rosie as she has pioneering operation

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By Walsall Advertiser | Thursday, December 13, 2012, 09:20

A FIVE-year-old girl from Walsall has been given the best early Christmas present possible after becoming only the second person in the world to have pioneering surgery on her spine to stop it from crushing her internal organs.

Brave Rosie Davies has been given the gift of life and the possibility that she may one day be able to walk after undergoing a 13-hour ground-breaking operation at Birmingham Children's Hospital in which her legs were amputated to help fix her spine.

The happy youngster from Bloxwich, the first in the country to have the risky procedure, is the only person in the UK to have the extremely rare condition spinal segmental dysgenesis of the lumbar spine, where the lower segment is missing. It meant her legs were folded up under the back of her thighs causing her to have very little feeling in them and denying her the ability to move them.

Without the surgery, Rosie's organs, without the support of a complete spine, would have compressed against each other causing eventual organ failure.

Despite her rare condition, Rosie – whose family described her as a "time bomb" before having the surgery – did have some feeling in her lower body. At eight months old she was able to move around adopting a commando-style crawl, suggesting to doctors that her spine and nerves were working. But due to the complex nature of her condition, previous operations to straighten Rosie's legs proved unsuccessful.

Undeterred, neurological and orthopaedic surgeons at Birmingham Children's Hospital chose to use a technique only carried out once before in New Zealand to repair Rosie's spine and limit the fatal effect of her condition.

During the very complex operation, which involved a team of seven, Rosie's lower legs were amputated where she had little or no feeling, and bone was taken from one of her legs and grafted to the base of her spine.

Two 15cm long rods were then screwed in place – carefully avoiding the nerves – to create a type of scaffolding from the upper part of her spine down to the hip bone.

Now, one month after her life-saving surgery, Rosie already has more sensation in the upper part of her legs, meaning her dream of one day being able to walk like her beloved older sister Mia-Alice, aged eight, could become a reality with the use of prosthetic legs.

Rosie's mum, Mandy Collett, said: "As a family we can't thank the team at Birmingham Children's Hospital enough. I know from talking to the surgeons that there were some very tough decisions that needed to be made as the surgery progressed, and I am grateful for their ability to work through difficult circumstances to give our daughter the best chance of reaching her full potential.

"Rosie has never considered herself as disabled. She decides what she wants to do and finds a way to do it, overcoming any obstacle. She has always been very active enjoying dance, sport and playing with others. She is an exceptionally bright young girl who is above average academically. The only thing that Rosie has been unable to do is walk, which is her ultimate goal in life. After her operation and with the correct support, we're confident now that she will be able to find a way to do that – to some degree. She loves her older sister Mia dearly, and has always aspired to be like her. She always says she would like to walk like Mia one day and that Mia would teach her."

Rosie's dad, Scott, said their brave daughter's progress so far had surpassed their expectations and those of the surgeons.

"Rosie has been through so much over the last few years and we hope now that this will mean a better future for our little girl and maybe a chance for her to walk in the future," he said.

Consultant Neurosurgeon Mr Guirish Solanki, from Birmingham Children's Hospital, who was one of the three surgeons to operate on Rosie, said the case was one of the most complicated they had faced.

"We are delighted with the results of this operation," Mr Solanki said.

"This is only the second time in the world that a surgical team has attempted to fix the thoracic spine to the hip side bones for a condition as rare as Rosie's. This case was very complicated as normally children with this condition do not have a working spinal cord or nerves, but Rosie did. So in carrying out this procedure, we had to be extremely careful not to damage her nerves."

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