A FAMILY is thanking kind-hearted Fylde coast residents who have supported them in funding 22 operations to help a teenager walk on his own two feet.
St Annes youngster Michael McKenzie is set to have the latest in a long series of surgical procedures to help him walk, after he was born with his right leg much shorter than the left.
His mum Ginette first started campaigning when he was three years old to pay for him to travel to America for treatment under the banner Operation Michael.
Generous Gazette readers helped raise thousands of pounds over the years to help Michael achieve his dream of being able to walk.
His right leg has been stretched by a record 31cm and he can now walk with a built-up shoe and set of crutches.
But the 13-year-old is facing more surgery in May.
Experts in America hope they can operate on his knee and hip – as both are completely fused at the joint - to give him 60 per cent movement in both joints.
Proud mum Ginette said: “It might not mean he can ever ride a bike, but it may allow him to sit down and get up and down the stairs and possibly ditch the crutches.
“At the moment, his spine is starting to curve, because he is compensating due to the fact the joints don’t move.
“We didn’t really know what to do about the operation at first - because he’s been through so many and only just got over the last one.
“But we felt like we couldn’t give up now, as this really will make a big difference.
“It has to be done in America because the surgeon can do both the knee and hip at the same time.
“Of course, we had the issue of how to pay for it. We started doing some events, sponsored walks and things and we still had some money left in the Operation Michael fund, which the trustees said we could use for this.
“We’re still really grateful to everyone in Blackpool because they have helped this happen.”
The family are set to become reality TV stars too – as they have recently been filmed by a Japanese production company for a fly-on-the-wall documentary and appeared on popular daytime show This Morning earlier this year.