AN OTTERBOURNE girl has been given “a new lease of life” after she travelled to the US to have life-changing surgery.

Six-year-old Jemima Syvret, who was born with quadriplegia – a form of cerebral palsy, needed surgery on her spine in the hope she would eventually walk unaided.

And with the help of her mum, Jo, dad, Andrew, and brothers Oli and Freddie, who had fund-raised over £100,000, the Hiltingbury Junior School girl is now showing the first signs of independence.

The family, from Norlands Drive in Otterbourne, started campaigning in September to get Jemima to Missouri to have a selective dorsal rhizotomy which involved severing nerves in the base of her spine that sent incorrect messages to her legs.

Surgery went well and now only the ‘correct nerves’ are responding which has meant, with intense physiotherapy, Jemima might one day be able to walk unaided.

Strict UK guidelines meant that Jemima wasn’t able to have the surgery at home but her mum said the trip was worth every mile and penny.

“It’s given her a new lease of life and to see the benefits already is hugely rewarding,” she said.

“Straight away she was more flexible but also relatively weak because of the surgery. Now we need to build up on that so she can do as much as she can on her own.

“Before she could sit on the floor cross-legged ok but now she can sit on a chair with some help which, while it might not seem a big thing, is such a help. Going to a friend’s house where she can sit in a chair will just mean she’s not so restricted all the time.

“It’s like teaching a toddler again. All children progress at different rates but we’re hoping by her next birthday she can walk with her frame pretty much unaided.”

But now the family have one more bump in the road. Jemima’s been visiting the Rainbow Centre in Fareham since she was two which, because of a lack of funding, is now at threat of closure which Jo said would hugely affect Jemima’s development.

“It’s a key part of the rehabilitation and there is nowhere else,” she said. “It’s her space to be free.

“If they close she will have to have private physio but it’s not integrated with other areas of her learning. At the Rainbow it is all about her development and it’s tied in with the national curriculum so she’s learning all the time and with other disabled children so she gets to be sociable too. We pay about £20 an hour for her physio at the Rainbow but privately it would cost £100 per hour.

“Luckily we fund-raised a lot so we can afford to pay for it but for any other families couldn’t do that,” she added.

“The NHS can do very little with cerebral palsy children – if you’re not waiting for weeks for an appointment date every three weeks you’re stuck in waiting rooms.

“The Rainbow centre has, for the last four years, made our lives so much easier and hopefully will continue to do so.”