Finley's SDR story

After undergoing numerous tests during the first period of his life, Finley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months old.

Life-changing SDR surgery for young Finley

After the operation I can walk, kick, swim and play football

Finley Bojko
Finley and Mr Aquilina.jpg

When Finley stopped breathing soon after birth, the panic and fear for his well-being was immediate. As his mum Carrie says, “He was taken out of my arms and rushed to intensive care. Seeing him in an incubator was extremely hard and emotional for us as a family.” The uncertainty around how badly Finley would be affected by his troubled birth was understandably very hard for his parents “Initially we were unsure whether he’d be able to talk or walk.”

Finley's cerebral palsy diagnosis

After undergoing numerous tests during the first period of his life, Finley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months old. Whilst receiving this diagnosis was obviously very challenging for Carrie and Rael, it at least provided them with an opportunity to explore treatment options they hoped would improve their son's future quality of life.

When he was four years old they decided to look into the option of SDR surgery which they had heard may help Finley. They attended the clinic at The Portland Hospital and Mr Kristian Aquilina, Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon was optimistic.

When we first saw Finley his legs were tight, but he was finding ways around it. He was able to walk with some help, and because of that we thought Finley would be an excellent candidate for selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).

Mr Kristian Aquilina
Paediatric Neurosurgeon

Finleys groundbreaking SDR surgery

A pioneering treatment for reducing spasticity, SDR has been around for some time. However, development of the technique t in recent years have led to the point where the operation can now be done with a far smaller spinal procedure than was previously possible. Mr Aquilina describes SDR treatment in more detail.

"The surgery takes about three hours. In order to reduce some of the spasticity in Finley's legs, we cut some of the sensory nerve roots at the lower end of the spinal cord. I'm pleased to say the operation was a great success."

Finley’s rehabilitation is a long-term process”, and it starts by an intense period of therapy at The Portland immediately after surgery.

Finleys rehabilitation begins

It may sound simple, but selective dorsal rhizotomy is an intricate procedure, which for Finley's mum Carrie was especially intense.

"That was the longest day of my life, having to watch Finley be put to sleep whilst he was in my arms. I definitely felt more at ease after the operation though, when Mr Aquilina told us he was incredibly excited to see how Finley was going to progress because he was such a determined boy."

Whilst there is no cure for cerebral palsy, the benefits of SDR can be great in helping to aid the development of young children with this condition. Of course as Mr Aquilina explains, the operation is only a small part of the treatment.

We have seen great improvement in Finley’s ability to move over the last year. He can now run, jump, hop and go up and down the stairs easily without holding the rail. He is doing football training with a mainstream team and kicks the ball very well! We look forward to seeing Finley in another year to see what else he can achieve.

Senior physiotherapist on the SDR service

A look ahead with excitement

Much to treating team's joy, a year on from his operation Finley is continuing to make exceptional progress. "We are delighted to see how well Finley is doing. He can now walk independently for longer distances without getting as tired, and has shown greatly improved coordination and stamina. Most importantly he's able to participate far more in all of the different activities he enjoys.

The improvement seen in Finley by his family is the most touching thing of all, with his mum Carrie emphasising just how positive the outcome has been thus far. "He gets up and he’s a happy little boy in the morning and he's excelling at school. SDR has changed him completely for the better. The future is bright!"

Finleys patient story SDR.jpg

Happy times for Finley

It seems fitting to leave the last word to the young man himself, who has never once let his condition deter him from doing the things he loves. As his mum emphasised Finley has always been a positive boy, but is seemingly feeling even more so after his SDR surgery.

Before the operation I found it difficult to walk, run and even to cross my legs, but now I can do all of those things as well as swim, play football - and I’ve even done rock climbing. Thank you so much to the SDR team at the Portland!

Finley Bojko

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