A brave little girl from the South Hams is fighting her way back to fitness after life-changing surgery paid for by a crowdfunding campaign.

The Elsie’s Big Stride JustGiving campaign raised a massive £65,000 last year after more than 400 supporters stepped forward to help Elsie Mountford, 4, who lives in Marldon.

Elsie was born 10 weeks prematurely and diagnosed with Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy at 11 months old. In October 2017, an NHS Neurosurgeon recommended a procedure called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy which sadly is not available on the NHS.

Her parents, Victoria and Alex, started the crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to pay for the vital surgery which would give their daughter greater mobility, independence and quality of life. Without it, Elsie was destined to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair and would need several lots of invasive surgery throughout her life.

Thanks to the generosity of JustGiving supporters, they succeeded in raising the money and Elsie underwent surgery on September 17 last year.

In a Facebook post on that day, her parents wrote: “Elsie had her operation earlier this morning and, in the words of the surgeon, the procedure went exactly how he wanted it to. We are so proud of our little warrior who is sleepy but doing extremely well.”

Selective dorsal rhizotomy is an operation to improve spasticity, which is the muscle stiffness caused by cerebral palsy that leads to pain and the shortening of muscles and tendons and bone deformities. Spastic diplegia affects the leg muscles more than the arms and is the most common form of the disease. Nerve fibres running from the muscles to the spinal cord are largely responsible for this muscle stiffness and during SDR some of these fibres are divided to reduce stiffness and spasticity.

Four days after surgery, Elsie was up and standing using parallel bars

A week after surgery, her parents posted: “We are seeing changes in her body constantly, seeing her move in ways she has never been able to before and despite the obvious weakness she has post-op it’s so clear to see how she will fly. For us, the biggest and best change is seeing her body relaxed. This is huge for us as parents and something we have wanted for her so desperately.”

Over the months since surgery, Elsie has had to adapt to the sensations and capabilities of her new body, learning different ways of moving and having to cope with moments of frustration and exhaustion. Initially her body become weaker in the short-term, as ironically the spasticity had provided a level of stability, but a routine of daily exercises and physio is helping to build her strength.

Mum, Victoria expressed her heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been involved in Elsie’s Big Stride and beyond.

She said: “This weekend we have walked holding hands with our little girl whilst she splashed in muddy puddles. If that wasn’t enough, our marvellous girl has used the toilet successfully all weekend. SDR has changed Elsie’s life and every person who supported her journey has contributed to this.”