Belfast toddler Cavan O'Neill to receive life-changing treatment in US

Cavan is to undergo potentially life-changing surgery in the United States

A THREE-year-old boy from Belfast is to travel to the United States for life-changing surgery to enable him to take his first steps after a fundraising campaign reached its £80,000 target.

The family of Cavan O'Neill have campaigned for the past nine months to raise enough money to allow him to undergo treatment in Missouri.

Little Cavan suffers from Spastic Diplegia - a form of cerebral palsy - which affects his ability to walk.

His parents Emma and Diarmuid launched Cavan's First Steps last October with the aim of raising £80,000 to fund the selective dorsal rhizotomy procedure at St Louis Children's Hospital.

The operation is used to treat children living with a specific type of cerebral palsy that affects the legs with the goal of getting them on their feet to walk, with or without assistance.

Cavan's family believe the pioneering surgery will permanently release him from pain and allow him to walk unaided.

Mum Emma said reaching the target amount within just nine months had still not sunk in.

"It still doesn't feel real," she said.

"Maybe it will when we get on the plane to travel to St Louis.

"We have booked everything, the surgery, flights, accommodation and I'm waiting on that moment when it hits home."

The Belfast Giants backed the Cavan's First Steps fundraising campaign

The family will travel to Missouri in October, with the four-hour procedure taking place one year to the day that the family initiated their campaign.

"It'll be the most anxious day of my life," Emma said.

"I chose to put my son through this surgery because I know it will improve his life more than anything else can.

"I know we've a long road ahead and the hard bit has yet to begin but I'm his mother and that's my job, to do all I can to give him the best life possible."

Speaking about the generosity and support the family have received, she added: "Thank you seems too simple a word to express our gratitude to those who have helped us.

"From the complete stranger who threw 50p in a bucket to those who were at my side the entire journey and the selfless and amazing people who hosted their own events - they have all contributed to changing my son's life and for that I will be eternally grateful."

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