Braunton youngster records heartfelt video message to US surgeon.

On the move: George Palmer is learning to walk after undergoing revolutionary surgery in America a year ago this week.On the move: George Palmer is learning to walk after undergoing revolutionary surgery in America a year ago this week.

BRAUNTON youngster George Palmer has recorded a heartfelt video message to the US surgeon who has given him the chance to walk for the first time.

A year ago this week, the six-year-old was recovering from selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery at a specialist children's hospital in Missouri.

Now taking his first steps with a walker, George has marked the first anniversary of the surgery by thanking Dr T S Park of the Louis Children's Hospital.

"Thank-you, thank-you Dr Park," says the cerebral palsy sufferer after walking across the room.

On the move: George Palmer is learning to walk after undergoing revolutionary surgery in America a year ago this week.On the move: George Palmer is learning to walk after undergoing revolutionary surgery in America a year ago this week.

And Dr Park - who has performed SDR surgery on more than 3,000 patients, including 200 from England - has replied: "You are welcome, George. You walk a lot better in the frame. Keep walking."

Parents Nicki and Gary raised an astonishing £82,000 to help pay for the surgery, which involves cutting away the nerve endings that do not work properly and is not automatically available on the NHS.

They say the youngster, who goes to Kingsacre Primary School, is making fantastic progress with his walker and has even taken around 900 steps to walk around the block to his grandmother's house.

"The neighbours were clapping him all the way; it was so nice to see," said Nicki, 37.

"He's walking mostly around the home and at school and wants to do it himself, rather than being asked to do it.

"George is able to sit on a chair, or sit on the floor with his legs by the side or in front of him.

"He's also out of nappies now and it's all down to the SDR surgery. Dr Park is thrilled with his progress.

"His speech is improving too and he's generally a lot stronger, and a lot cheekier.

Dad Gary, 39, said George followed a 40-minute training programme four times a week, as well as regular physio and therapy sessions: "We've had to put a lot of faith in ourselves as parents and it's been a big learning curve for us too to make sure he does all his exercises right," he said.

"It's eliminated a lot of potential skeletal problems George could have faced as he gets older," he added.

"He may still need hip surgery at some point as he has very shallow hip sockets, but this is very common for children with cerebral palsy."

Nicki said the surgery had made a massive difference to the whole family.

"Last year was so exhausting with all the fundraising but this year has been really rewarding.

"I can't wait until Christmas day when George will be able to sit at the table with us."