Tyrone baby Charlie on road to recovery after treatment for curved spine in US
The family of an 11-month-old baby boy living with a spinal condition have spoken of their joy after he underwent successful treatment in the US to straighten his curved bones.
Donna Ferris (35) and her husband Jody, from Ballinderry, Co Tyrone, were told that if their little boy, Charlie, did not have treatment for his infantile scoliosis, his spine could become severely twisted, leading to breathing problems and even decreased life expectancy.
After being given the devastating news, the couple and their local community set about raising the necessary money to send Charlie to the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia for specialist treatment.
When first X-rayed on April 4, the little boy had a 42 degree curve of the spine.
After a special cast was applied in America, this was reduced to between 15 and 20 degrees.
And in a post on Facebook, Charlie's mum revealed there had been even more progress.
"The third X-ray shows Charlie in cast today... they managed to get his curve down to 10 degrees," Donna wrote.
"We were so emotional when we saw the X-rays, and overwhelmed beyond belief.
"We are so thankful to the Shriners Hospital, Philadelphia, the staff, and to Charlie's doctor, for everything they have done.
"When we see the X-rays, we are so relieved and proud of the decision we made to take Charlie to Philadelphia.
"It wasn't the easiest route to choose, but it certainly was the best route. We want to thank you all for your support, kind words, messages and generous donations, which have helped us on this journey.
"Charlie still has a way to go, but we are determined we will see it through."
The little boy was only three months old when Jody and Donna became 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.
However, in November, the couple's fears were realised when their son was diagnosed with infantile scoliosis.
Not wanting him to have to undergo 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 Philadelphia.
However, doctors said they could not be sure how long the little boy's treatment programme would last.
As a result, the family faces having to fly to America every eight weeks.
Despite the strain, Donna and Jody said they had been overwhelmed by how many people had offered help with travel and treatment costs.
Among those who gave support to Charlie was tragic road racer Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, who died in a crash at the North West 200 in May.
The Ferris family praised the 20-year-old sportsman as "kind-hearted" after he posed with Charlie's mascot, Big Ted, just 48 hours before he lost his life on the race track.