Little Charlie's been through so much... mum's pride as baby with twisted spine marks first birthday
The family of a baby living with a serious spinal condition have spoken of their pride in their little boy, who has just celebrated his first birthday.
Charlie Ferris recently had successful treatment in the US to straighten his curved bones.
Mum Donna (35) and her husband Jody, from Ballinderry, Co Tyrone, were told that if Charlie did not have treatment for his infantile scoliosis, his spine could become severely twisted, leading to breathing problems and even decreased life expectancy.
As Charlie turned one this week, his mum took to Facebook to say how proud she was of her brave son.
"Charlie has been through so much in his first year of life... but he has surprised us all and we are so incredibly proud of him," she wrote.
"This second bodycast has been a lot tougher on Charlie. It was a lot tighter than the first cast, which meant that after Charlie ate something he was sick... so mealtimes became smaller and more often."
"Nappy changing was a struggle too, as it was hard to push the first nappy underneath the cast. But we have managed and so has he. We are five weeks into cast number two tomorrow, so just three more to go 'til we cut if off. Then we fly out on Thursday 4 August for cast three on 5th."
After Charlie was diagnosed, his parents and the local community set about raising the necessary money to send him to the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia for specialist treatment.
The little boy was only three months old when Jody and Donna first noticed and became concerned about a bump on their son's back.
In the beginning, they dismissed it, putting it down to the way he was sitting. But in November, the couple's fears were realised when he was diagnosed with infantile scoliosis.
Not wanting him to have an invasive operation, they searched for an alternative treatment and found the hospital in America. Luckily, the family were able to stay with Charlie's aunt, who lives close to the city.
His progress has been charted by his mum and dad, who revealed that the treatment was proving successful. Extremely positive results show that the curve in Charlie's spine has reduced dramatically thanks to his most recent spell in the special Methas cast, which the family can decorate. When first X-rayed on April 4, the little boy had a 42 degree curve of the spine. After the special cast was applied, this decreased to between 15 and 20 degrees.
"We were so emotional when we saw the X-rays, and overwhelmed beyond belief," Donna said. "We are so thankful to the Shriners Hospital, Philadelphia, the staff, and to Charlie's doctor for everything they have done."
Among the many people who gave support to Charlie was tragic road racer Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, who died in a crash at the North West 200 motorbike races in May.
The Ferris family praised sportsman, who was killed aged just 20, as "kind-hearted" after he posed with Charlie's mascot, Big Ted, 48 hours before he lost his life on the race track.