After three months abroad undergoing life-changing surgery in the United States and therapy in Croatia, James Reid is home in the Bay and is able to walk around his Papamoa home - for the first time in his life.

James' parents Don and Sonja Reid started fundraising in December 2014 and raised $125,000 to get him to the US where he underwent life-changing surgery, nine days of intensive therapy in New York and then flew to Croatia for more therapy.

The operation - selective percutaneous myofascial lengthening, or SPML - involved small skin incisions, 2-3mm in length, to release tight bands of tendon.

James' father, Don, swam from Motiti Island to Maketu to help raise funds for his eldest child while mother, Sonja, organised an auction night and a sponsored walk among other things.


"The operation was pretty amazing because two days after it, I started seeing differences [in James]. It freed him up instantly. He was able to turn his hand, which he had never been able to do, straighten his legs.

"His muscles were quite weak but he was relaxed and straight. Straighter than I have ever seen him. You could see pathways opening up [between his body and his brain]," Mr Reid said.

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They then flew to Europe, where they did twice-daily one-and-a-half-hour sessions of therapy in Croatia.

"They were really active and got him up and walking straight away. The first two weeks he was just amazing, everyday he was getting better and better - he was so enthusiastic about walking."

Over the next two-and-a-half months, James got stronger, had more stamina and could walk for longer, Mr Reid said.

Before the surgery, someone had to support James to walk.

Mr Reid said during James' first therapy session in Croatia he was able to take those first steps. In the second session he was able to make his own steps and walk heel to toe.

Mr Reid said seeing his son walk for the first time was amazing.

"Walking to us was something that would be awesome but we didn't think it was going to be possible this soon."

Before the operation, to try to walk was a hindrance to James because walking caused him pain, he said.

Mrs Reid said James was now motivated to attempt things compared with before the surgery. "It was too hard for him. Now he wants to - he wants to walk. It's magical to see it."

Mr Reid said the ball was now in James' court to progress further but he was going to study Feldenkrais - a therapy that uses slow and precise movement sequences to engage the brain.

James Reid, 6, with his parents Don and Sonja after his surgery in America. Photo/George Novak
James Reid, 6, with his parents Don and Sonja after his surgery in America. Photo/George Novak