Meet Henry

Originally published in the Herald Sun, 10 March 2021
Words: Brigid O’Connell
Photo: David Caird

Henry is learning to walk again after having a complex spinal surgery to treat muscle tightness from cerebral palsy that aims to see him pain-free.

To be able to put one foot in front of the other, Henry ­Bryant is learning to walk all over again.

But the four year old has proved at every hurdle he is up for the challenge.

Henry is putting all his ­determination into intensive rehabilitation after complex spinal surgery to treat muscle tightness from cerebral palsy, that is aiming to see him pain-free and moving more freely.

“This operation was all about giving him the therapies and interventions that he’s going to have in the ­future, every opportunity to have their best result,” said dad Shayne.

Traditional physiotherapy and Botox injections were only having minimal impact to reduce the stiffness in his legs. Recently he has been waking overnight in pain.

This is how Henry reached the point of needing this surgery of last resort at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH).

Selective dorsal rhizotomy involves cutting some of the sensory nerve fibres that send abnormal signals from the leg muscles to the spinal cord.

This frees up communication channels between the brain and muscles to improve mobility.

In a two-year journey up to the procedure, Henry’s temperament and mental health were assessed to see if he could cope with being bed-bound after surgery, the seven-week hospital stay, and the intensive ­rehabilitation that would follow.

“I don’t know whether it’s a result of him seeing a lot of doctors, but not much flusters him,” his dad said.

“He doesn’t cry when he gets his immunisations — he’s pretty resilient.”

Henry Bryant, age four, zooms around the ward on a padded wheel board that helps him with his cerebral palsy. Picture: David Caird

It is now taking multiple teams across the RCH to build him back up following last month’s surgery.

Henry has a strict schedule of rehabilitation, including exercises in his bed three times a day.

Then in the hospital gym he puts these muscles to the test.

His trademark grit saw him get to his feet this week for his first steps since the op.

“They did explain the surgery takes you two steps back to go forward,” he said.

“Taking 10 steps at the moment is like running a marathon for him. But he is doing it all and doesn’t complain.

“You come in here with an expectation of the staff, and they exceed it every time. We can’t be more grateful.”

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