Brave Joe Knowles has an extra special reason to look forward to the New Year.
The determined four-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy, has made an “amazing” recovery since undergoing a £38,000 operation to help him walk.
Just six months ago Joe was laid up in hospital.
But now the plucky youngster can walk unaided and his proud family hope his progress will take giant steps in 2015.
Joe’s father, Mike, from Bispham, said: “We are so proud of him.
“He’s doing really well – he even walked into school on his first day.
“We recently went back to see the surgeon who carried out Joe’s operation and he was really pleased with his progress.
“Joe is quite determined and headstrong, he just gets on with it.
“Things are looking really good.”
The five-hour SelectiveDorsal Rhizotomy procedure at a Leeds hospital last June involved the surgeon cutting around two thirds of the nerves leading to Joe’s legs, preventing them causing the stiffness that keeps him from walking without support.
His family had to fund-raise for the surgery through their charity campaign, Joe’s Wish to Walk, as the operation could only be performed privately at the time.
And, following an appeal in The Gazette, kind-hearted businesses and tradesmen have been donating their time and materials to convert the family’s garage into Joe’s personal gym in time for Christmas.
Mr Knowles, 38, added: “We got a really good response and people have been rallying around to help.
“Everyone was doing work on the garage when they could – working until 9pm. There are gym mats, a trampoline, horse riding simulator and a treadmill in there.
“We are really grateful to everyone who helped.”
The Westcliff Primary School pupil used a wheelchair or walking aid prior to the operation but is now building up the strength in his legs with his physiotherapist three times a week at home.
Gareth Troughton, Joe’s physiotherapist, said: “We forget that he’s only four and he’s had major spinal surgery – his progress has been amazing.
“It was really difficult for him when he first came out of hospital.
“It was like he’d gone back to being a toddler, having to learn how to walk.
“But his core strength has gone through the roof – I struggle to do some of the things he can do!
“He can walk unaided, he can get himself up off the floor and sit in a v-position holding a 2kg medicine ball.
“He does really well.
“The rehabilitation period will probably be about four years.
“We just need to focus on his walking pattern now.
“In the long term I would hope he could walk in the community in crowds unaided.”
Although Joe, who was recently awarded the Rider of the Year at Wrea Green Equestrian Centre, still has a wheelchair for any family days out which might involve a lot of walking, his future mobility is looking optimistic.
Mr Knowles added: “With the muscle stiffness he couldn’t do anything before but since the operation he says ‘my legs are more floppy’.
“He is working really hard at it and his physio is really optimistic.”
Joe’s family would like to thank the following people for their help in converting the garage:
Ian Fletcher at Lucas Developments
Gary Barraclough at GAB Electrics
Jake Reiss Developments Sam Burrows Plastering
Trade Windows Thornton
John Harper at Harper and Pye
Peter Wood floor fitter