Twins take step forward after surgery
TWO three-year-old Brisbane boys are learning how to walk properly and build their muscle strength after receiving potentially life-changing surgery in the US.
Benjamin and William Rosuck have Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy, which means they have tightness and pain in their limbs and are unable to walk independently.
The boys have undergone many hours of therapy over many years and have been to Mexico twice for stem cell injections.
On December 10 last year they both underwent selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery, a three-hour procedure at St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri which involved cutting the spinal nerve and permanently removing all spasticity (tightness) in the boys' lower body.
Mum Sharon, of Virginia, said everything went according to plan and her twin boys are no longer experiencing pain.
"They only spent five days in hospital and then had three weeks of post op therapy (in the US) - one hour of physio a day, five days a week."
Mrs Rosuck said the surgeon checked the movements of the boys' feet after the operation and said both should walk independently in a controlled environment (on a flat surface) without the aid of a walker.
"There was no time frame given, each kid is different," she said.
"The boys are taking it all in their stride.
"After the operation you could feel how loose their muscles were; now they're not as tender and fragile.
"They are up and walking in their walkers, taking these ginormous walking-like steps and gait pattern which they weren't doing before.
"The spasticity made them walk in a scissors motion - when you step on your own feet as you walk it makes it much harder to walk.
"Now it's about retraining and learning how to make their movements properly and which muscles to use and about gaining strength."
Mrs Rosuck, her parents and the boys returned home to north Brisbane on January 10.
She said the operation was "absolutely worth it".
"When they were in surgery you're just powerless. I was just sitting there and thinking have I made the right decision and then I was thinking I'm doing it for two of them not just one.
"Now, Will's appetite has probably doubled since he's had the surgery, which shows the impact spasticity has, not only on their movement but on their health as well.
"There is still a long road to get them to where they need to be but absolutely, it was worth it."
The boys, who turn four on March 4, will continue to have physio one hour a day, five days a week, and occupational therapy one hour each fortnight.
"It's one step at a time. Each day they continue to amaze me how far they can walk," Mrs Rosuck said.
"They've seen each other's scars on their back and if anyone asks they say 'It's to help us walk'."
Mrs Rosuck said the surgeries would not have been possible without generous support from the community, with more than $160,000 in donations received towards the $200,000 cost.
The SDR surgery is offered in Australia but Mrs Rosuck said it was more invasive and had a longer recovery time.
According to the Cerebral Palsy Australia website, SDR is "a reasonably new and still somewhat controversial technique. It is a permanent and non-reversible intervention (and) long-term benefits and known side effects are not yet available."
According to the website of St Louis Children's Hospital, which has performed more than 3000 SDR surgeries, there has been "no long-term complications in any of (the) patients who underwent surgery as early as 1987. Our results indicate the long-term safety of selective dorsal rhizotomy."
You can follow the family's journey on Facebook at 'Ben & William's Wish to Walk'.