Little fighter Harper, four, to be pain free after life-changing operation
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
A four-year-old with cerebral palsy will be able to live without pain thanks to a life-changing operation this summer after the Norwich community rallied round to raise £65,000.
Harper Sharrocks, from Hellesdon, who was born premature weighing just 4lb 4oz through emergency caesarean section, was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy at eight-months-old after her parents noticed their daughter was constantly clenching her fists and her legs were always stiff.
The condition causes the youngster pain, stiffness and spasms in her legs which prevents her from walking.
But despite that the four-year-old, who wants to become a hairdresser or actress, has overcome the odds and can speak, walk on her knees, roll and even do forward rolls.
Her mother, Natasha Sharrocks, 34, a support medical secretary on the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital paediatric surgery ward, said: "The doctors have said they don't know if the operation will help her walk but it will take away her pain. If it takes away her pain it will be a bonus. Hopefully it will also help Harper with her speech too. It will give her the best chance of life. We have mixed emotions. It is risky but it is going to help her.
"The support from the community has been overwhelming. We had help from people we did not expect it from. It builds trust in strangers and shows you how people step up to raise money.
"We didn't think we would raise the money and could not have got to this point without other people helping us."
Mrs Sharrocks and her husband, Steve, 34, launched an £80,000 fundraiser for a spinal operation in America, known as selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) in March 2018.
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And thanks to community fundraisers and individual donations it has has raised over £65,000 which can pay for the five-hour operation on June 18 at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool as well as a year's worth of physiotherapy.
Through their online fundraising they attracted support from Norwich wrestler Zak Bevis, also known as Zak Zodiac, who raised thousands through charity fights and has since become family friends with Harper and her parents.
He said: "I'm thrilled about the operation. Harper is a little fighter."
The family was also messaged personally by Michael Kutcher, who has cerebral palsy and is the twin brother of American actor Ashton Kutcher.
Other fundraisers included a charity ball, marathons and cycle rides.
Harper had a dramatic start to life and was born with with a one-in-40,000 chance condition called True Knot, starving her brain of oxygen as her umbilical cord became knotted and was 30 minutes from death, according to Mrs Sharrocks, whose instincts saved the life of her daughter.
She had to spend two months on the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with severe hypoglycaemia and hyperinsulinism.
Her form of cerebral palsy was diagnosed after hospital tests and Mrs Sharrocks said she was warned her daughter would not be able to crawl, walk, roll or talk.
The hospital worker added: "Harper was so severely brain damaged. She should have died when she was born but she is the exception. During lockdown she has been walking everywhere on her knees, climbing stairs and doing forward rolls on her physiotherapy bench.
"She is so clever. It is lovely to see the progression as the first few days were very dark."
The four-year-old can now understand everything and make herself understood and can say several words.
"Harper is so funny, cheeky, sassy and cute. She is also very caring and independent. She observes everything," Mrs Sharrocks said.
The youngster, who loves Disney princesses, uses a walker and wheelchair and takes daily medication for the muscle spasms and is likely to need a further operation on her hips when she is older.
Mrs Sharrocks said more awareness is needed about cerebral palsy and parents whose children have the disorder need more support.
She said: "My advice to anyone who finds themselves in this position is find other families in the same situation. You find out your worries you are having are normal and that is part of the process. It is one of the most common childhood illnesses but has the least amount of help for parents."