A MOTHER says she is angered by a “postcode lottery” denying her son surgery to help him walk and play football.
Nine-year-old Riccardo Doloto, from Borras Park, Wrexham, was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy as a baby.
The avid Wrexham FC fan cannot walk unaided as the condition means he has no balance, but he dreams of one day being able to play football just like his friends.
The surgery he needs to give him a shot at a better life – the micro-nuerosurgery Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) – is not currently funded by the NHS in Wales, despite having been commissioned for some children in England.
Welsh health bosses argue there is a “lack of clinical evidence” about the effectiveness of the treatment, which involves identifying and cutting the spinal nerves causing stiffness and pain in cerebral palsy sufferers
Last year a 2,000-signature petition was delivered to the steps of the Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay by the ‘Support for SDR Wales’ campaign group, calling on Ministers to introduce the pioneering procedure in Wales’ hospitals.
And now Riccardo’s mother Franca – who faces a £60,000 bill and a trip to the US for her son to have the surgery – has added her voice to the calls.
She said: “The Welsh Government does not cover children in Wales needing this operation, but in England there has been some funding for this.
“How can you put a price on a child whose only wish is to walk and play football with his friends? All he wants from life is to be able to walk and play football with his friends, and it upsets me because I can’t give him that.
“You want to do the best for your children.
“I even heard him praying to be able to walk and I just need to make this happen for him.”
Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM said he had every sympathy with families who have children with cerebral palsy and fully appreciates their desire to pursue treatment they feel could improve their child’s life.
He said: “SDR is not routinely commissioned by the NHS because the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee’s conclusion is that there is a lack of clinical evidence at this time to support the treatment. This is consistent with the National Institute of Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) view that further research into this procedure and measurement of long term outcomes should take place.”
Mr Drakeford said health chiefs in Wales would be part of a new evaluation of the effectiveness of SDR recently announced in England.
But Franca said that was little comfort to her and Riccardo, who cannot get about on his own without the help of a walker and spends most of the time in his wheelchair.
Having tried various treatments, including physiotherapy, Franca has now decided enough is enough and that she will get her son the SDR surgery regardless.
That means a trip to the USA for the life-changing surgery at St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, which would come at a cost of about £60,000.
Franca, 50, said: “It is going to be a hard journey but we are determined to make it happen. Regardless of how much it costs we will get the money.
“I will do anything to make sure it is done.
“We just need to get 60,000 people to donate £1 each.”
Franca has set about putting buckets and collection tins around Wrexham to try and get the ball rolling.
She has also set up a Just Giving page where people can donate and this week alone it has raised nearly £1,000.
Franca said: “Riccardo is such a bubbly, outgoing, charming and well liked boy and everyone likes him and that’s why I want to do this for him.”
Anyone who would like to help Riccardo’s cause can donate by visiting justgiving.com/ riccardosjourneyofhope.