Belfast Telegraph

Thumbs-up from Oliver in US before life-changing operation

By Amanda Ferguson

A brave little boy who is determined to walk gave his trademark thumbs-up just before having pioneering surgery.

Oliver Dickey from Coleraine is recovering in a US hospital following the operation to help him walk for the first time.

Oliver's parents Charlene and Neil are by his bedside at the St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri following the life-changing procedure performed by Dr Tae Sung Park on Tuesday that could see the five-year -old walking unaided within a year.

Oliver, who was diagnosed with the spastic diplegia form of cerebral palsy at just 18 months, is the first child from Northern Ireland to undergo the surgery in the US after £110,000 was raised for him in just eight weeks.

Last night Charlene told the Belfast Telegraph the whole family was thrilled the selective dorsal rhizotmy (SDR) went well and Oliver should be standing independently within six months.

"He's doing really well," Charlene said. "He had a good night and all his pain has been managed well.

"He was wondering how he got here. He had left us at 11am and we got phone calls every hour with updates until he was in recovery. It was the longest four hours of our lives."

Charlene, Neil, the couple's other son Max and Oliver's grandmothers are in the US until July 27 as Oliver has to have another procedure to lengthen his hamstrings.

"The doctor told us everything went well and we are so pleased.

"He is confident Oliver will be able to walk indoors and outdoors. They think he will be standing independently in six months and independently walking in a year. Physio is as important now as the surgery was." Charlene has received a letter from Health Minister Edwin Poots confirming Oliver will be given extra physiotherapy on the NHS.

"We will be pushing to make sure that stays in place," added Charlene.

Charlene said her family had been overwhelmed by the public support for the Help Wee Oliver Walk campaign which saw £110,000 raised for the operation and aftercare – £50,000 more than their target amount.

Leftover money donated will now be used to pay for private physiotherapy, equipment and treatment in Wales and Scotland.

"Thanks massively to everyone," Charlene added.

"What the whole of Northern Ireland, especially Coleraine, achieved for us is unbelievable.

"The support and help has been immense."

For more about Oliver's progress search Help Wee Oliver Walk on Facebook.


Oliver Dickey (5) from Coleraine was diagnosed with the spastic diplegia form of cerebral palsy at the age of 18 months.

Currently a wheelchair-user, he is the first Northern Ireland child to undergo a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotmy (SDR) at the St Louis Children's Hospital in the US to enable him to walk.

Two other children from Northern Ireland have undergone a similar procedure in Bristol. The Dickey family smashed their target of £60,000 for Oliver's care and raised £110,000.

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