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What a difference five years make: Dereham youngster Blake Barley couldn’t walk unaided - now he’s doing karate

PUBLISHED: 06:30 22 December 2016

Blake Barley, eight, second left, with his family, mum Debbie, sister Beth, 14, and brother Bryce, 12, as they celebrate five years since his life-changing operation which enabled him to walk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Blake Barley, eight, second left, with his family, mum Debbie, sister Beth, 14, and brother Bryce, 12, as they celebrate five years since his life-changing operation which enabled him to walk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2016

Five years ago Blake Barley and his family had just one wish for Christmas.

Blake Barley, eight, enjoying running five years after his life-changing operation which enabled him to walk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYBlake Barley, eight, enjoying running five years after his life-changing operation which enabled him to walk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

As they left St Louis Children’s Hospital in America on Christmas Day, 2011 Blake’s mum Debbie, dad Luke, brother Bryce and sister Beth just wanted to see the endearing youngster enjoy the ability to walk unaided and run, jump and play like other children.

A life-changing operation had been carried out five days earlier following a fundraising campaign run by the EDP’s sister paper, the Dereham Times. This saw a staggering £80,000 raised, in just six months, to enable Blake, who has a form of cerebral palsy, get the treatment he needed. The operation was a complete success and now the Barley family, who live in Toftwood, Dereham are looking forward to Christmas Day with young Blake who can not only walk unaided but also run, jump, swim and even do karate.

Debbie Barley said: “Blake’s progress is absolutely unbelievable.

“It was expected that Blake would spend most of his time in a wheelchair and it was likely that he would never be able to run or jump.

“He can do it all now and has even been doing karate for the last two years.”

Mrs Barley, a data assistant at Northgate High School in Dereham, said she has been blown away by the public’s support for her son.

Blake, who is now aged eight, was born 10 weeks premature and developed a form of cerebral palsy after suffering a bleed on his brain.

Stiffness in his leg muscles meant he could only walk on tiptoes and needed to wear leg splints to force his heels to the ground.

Needing £50,000 for Blake’s three-and-a-half hour selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) operation, in America, Blake’s parents launched the Blake’s Wish to Walk appeal.

The Dereham Times offered to support the appeal through the Let’s Help Blake to Walk campaign - which received staggering support from Dereham Times and EDP readers.

The family’s original target was smashed in just 15 weeks. In the end more than £80,000 was raised with the extra funds paying for physiotherapy aids and equipment.

Mrs Barley said: “We had to do everything we could for Blake but knew we had an uphill battle to raise this money. We could not have imagined how much support we would get - it was absolutely incredible.

“On the morning the story went out in the paper I had a call from a stranger wanting to give us £1,000. Three hours later an anonymous company offered to pay for flights for the whole family. It snowballed from there.

“It is humbling to know there are people out there who care and want to help you and I can’t thank them enough. Blake’s life would have been so different if it hadn’t been for people’s kindness and support.”

Blake himself is also incredibly grateful to all of his supporters.

He said: “I want to thank everyone who participated in the fundraising to help me.

“All of the other children at school now see me as a normal boy, like them.”

Young Blake still needs to undergo regular physiotherapy and his condition continues to cause him some problems.

He struggles with balance and co-ordination and can tire easily.

Mrs Barley said: “It will be a long road for Blake and there will always be some difficulties but the progress he’s made in five years is incredible - it is beyond anything we could have hoped for.

“It’s lovely to be able to show people how he is doing, thanks to the support they have given.”

Blake said his next goals are to learn to roller-skate, ride a bike and skip.

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