They said Coleraine boy Oliver Dickey would never walk now he can play football
Coleraine boy defies the doctors to take part in his first football tournament
A Coleraine boy who doctors said would never walk has played in his first football tournament at St George's Park in England.
Eight-year-old Oliver Dickey, who suffers from the spastic diplegia form of cerebral palsy, travelled to the US for specialist surgery two years ago after being refused an operation on the NHS.
The treatment was funded by big-hearted locals, who raised £110,000 in eight weeks for two life-changing ops and a month of physiotherapy.
The youngster's condition has now improved so much that at the weekend he took part in his first football tournament as part of a team of kids with health conditions at the English FA's national football centre.
"We are so proud of Oliver; his dad was thrilled to go from being told 'your son will never walk' to cheering him on at a football tournament," said proud mum Charlene.
"Every wee boy wants to play football, and TW Braga Frame Football Club is for children who can't take part in sport with their friends. It's an amazing facility to have for children with conditions like spina bifida and cerebral palsy.
"Some of the children had never seen another child in a frame, and it enables them to interact with other kids who know what they are going through. To see Oliver playing in a tournament is beyond our wildest dreams."
Oliver's parents know that the life of their son, a pupil at Millburn Primary School, could have taken a drastically different path.
"There's not a day goes by when we don't think of what might have been if we had taken the NHS advice of not going to America for selective dorsal rhizotomy," Charlene explained. "They told us Oliver would never walk, that he'd be in a wheelchair and we should consider enrolling him in a special school.
"Now he can walk on two crutches at school, and in the playground he uses his walking frame for security and safety.
"He can walk about the house in splints if someone is with him.
"His trainer is hoping that he will be able to walk outside unaided within the next 18 months.
"If we hadn't gone to America, it would have been the biggest mistake of our lives."
Oliver underwent two operations in the States.
One was to cut the nerves around his spine, which were causing spasticity, and the other to lengthen his hamstring muscles.
He then underwent a month of specialist physiotherapy.
His mum recalls that there was an immediate difference after the surgery, and says her son has worked hard to get better.
"Oliver is very determined and never complains," she said.
"He gets up, does his stretches, does his physio, goes to school and when he gets into bed at night he wears knee immobilisers to get his hamstrings to keep growing. He never complains."
Charlene and other parents are now fundraising to purchase special 'game frames' for the children's football team, and to enable them to continue to travel to tournaments.
For more information, visit the 'Frame Football' and 'Help Wee Oliver Walk' Facebook pages.