A six-year-old British girl has had groundbreaking surgery in Israel to prevent her losing her leg.
Kyra Warrell, who suffers from a rare condition for which the NHS could only offer amputation as her “best option”, underwent preparatory surgery for leg-lengthening at Rambam Hospital in Haifa on Sunday.
“The operation was a success, and Kyra will be ready next year for the first of two or three leg-lengthening surgeries which will give her a full range of motion by the time she is 16,” says Dr. Dror Paley, a specialist in treating proximal focal femoral deficiency.
The condition, which Kyra has suffered from since birth, would leave her left leg more than 20cm shorter than her right if left untreated.
Her mother, Rima, said Kyra would remain in a cast from her stomach to her ankle for the next few days.
"She is sleeping a lot at the moment," said Mrs Warrell. "She is on an epidural to control her pain, so the challenge will be how she feels tomorrow when it's removed and she is moved on to just paracetamol for pain control."
She added that Kyra had expressed an interest in visiting the hospital's pancake stand and was to looking forward to celebrating her birthday on Wednesday. Sadly there is no chance of a cake with candles, which the hospital prohibits for health and safety reasons.
Kyra said that she was excited about her birthday.
She told the JC: "I feel OK, but the tube in my arm is bothering me.
"The doctor said if I could wiggle my toes he would leave me alone for the rest of the day; I wiggled them and it hurt.
"I was scared the bath in bed would hurt, but it was nice; Daddy lifted me from the bed and we cuddled.
"I'm excited about my birthday. Mummy and Dad brought my presents in a suitcase so I can open them in bed, and I asked for a chocolate and raspberry cake."
Dr Paley, who treats patients from all over the world at his Institute in Florida, operates once a year in Israel at lower cost. With the help of a story in the JC in December, the Warrell family, from Brighton, managed to raise £51,000 of the £58,000 cost of the operation and their costs of staying in Israel for 10 days.
“Our fundraising accelerated dramatically after the JC story, with Sussex Friends of Israel picking up the cause along with the Israeli press, followed by an outpouring of offers of help,” says Mrs Warrell, an events manager.
“We were offered everything from help with translation to meals, open houses and company in hospital, and have had lots of inquiries about the quality of care at Rambam, which has been exceptional.
“This is a state of the art hospital from which we overlook the sea in a massive room; there is even a shopping plaza and a pancake stand in the hospital grounds Kyra can’t wait to visit.”
One Haifa local stocked the fridge of the flat the family rented for their stay, others invited them to their homes or took them out for meals, while a Tel Aviv family want to throw a party for Kyra.
“It’s a question of whether she is mobile enough to travel that far,” said Mrs. Warrell.
“She will be discharged with an ankle cast then to keep her ankle at a normal 90 degree angle, to which it had to be restored after years
of being pointed down into the prosthetic she has needed to wear to function normally.”
On return to Britain, the Warrells, who are not Jewish, will embark on a new fundraising effort for the £95,000 cost of travelling to Florida for leg-lengthening surgery which must be followed by three months of daily physiotherapy close to the hospital to ensure the best chance of success.
They are prepared to sell their house to meet any shortfall: “The NHS says the cost of anything but amputation is too high for them to meet, but it’s not an option we can accept while we know there is an alternative for Kyra to keep her own leg and not need a prosthetic,” says Mrs Warrell.
“It will help that we are getting charity status.”