SOON after little Layton Holmes was born, his mum Natalie Lorryman was given some of the most devastating news a parent could imagine.
Doctors said her baby would never walk or talk, and would remain bedbound after suffering cerebral palsy brought on by hydrocephalus, or water on the brain.
But four-year-old Layton is defying the medics’ expectations. He’s now beginning to form sentences and is steadily starting to walk, spurred on by his own determination, the devotion of his mum, lessons at Norfolk Park Special School and a special medical procedure called a VP shunt. Natalie said she was ‘very proud’ of Layton’s remarkable progress last year - and that she’s looking forward to seeing him improve even further in 2013.
“He’s doing really well, they told me he was not going to walk or talk, or do anything really. But obviously he’s proved them wrong.
Natalie, aged 25, who cares for her son full-time at her home in Norfolk Park, said the first signs of Layton’s health problems were spotted in the hours after his birth.
“I went into labour and my waters broke. They put me on this heart machine and found his heart rate was going up and down really fast. They rushed me down for an emergency caesarean section and that’s when it all went wrong and they found everything out.
“They noticed that he had a large head. They thought it wasn’t normal, so they sent him for a scan and found he had hydrocephalus, which would damage his eyesight and the left side of his body.
“I was upset, I didn’t really know anything about it. It was a big shock to the system.”
Four months later Layton underwent a series of operations to try and remove the water from his brain.
“They tried to get the fluid off his brain by tapping it with a certain piece of equipment but none of it worked,” said Natalie. “That’s when they tried the VP shunt.”
The procedure involved a small valve being placed underneath the skin behind Layton’s ear. The pump was then attached to two catheters, one in the brain and the other leading to the stomach.
When extra pressure builds up around the brain, the valve opens, and excess fluid drains out, helping to decrease pressure in the skull.
“Ever since that he’s been doing well, it’s like it’s fixed his brain,” Natalie said.
“He couldn’t see anything at all from when he was born, he had no eyesight at all. Now it’s much better, he can see the majority of things up close to him.
“He might need to wear glasses but each time he’s gone to the eye clinic they’ve said his eyes are getting stronger.”
Layton has also received help with his walking during lessons at Norfolk Special School, and regularly attends the Ryegate Children’s Centre in Crosspool, where he exercises his limbs in a hydrotherapy pool.
“The school’s helped him so much, he’s had everything he needs in one place. He is walking now - not as perfectly as we do, he will walk so far and then get tired, that’s when he will go in his disabled pram,” Natalie said.
“He wears plastic splints on the bottom of his legs. They help to keep his ankles supported. Whereas our feet are flat on the floor, his tend to tilt to the side.
“Layton needs more help with his speech and physiotherapy, as well as more occupational therapy as well.”
Communication is becoming less of an issue for Layton as well. He has begun to form sentences and has been taught a basic form of sign language called Makaton.
“Makaton’s slower than normal sign language which is quite fast. He says a few words now and can put a few sentences together - the majority of the time he’ll leave out the first letter of what he’s saying, so for biscuit he’ll say ‘iscuit’.
“It helps him when we don’t know what he’s trying to say.”
Natalie is separated from Layton’s dad Craig Holmes, and also has an older daughter Ellie, six.
“Everyone presumes they are going to have a normal child that’s going to walk and talk, but as time went on I brought myself round to it and realised it’s going to work out,” said the mum.
“This time next year I’d like to see him talking properly and able to walk more, going further distances, and for his eyes to be stronger.
“As for the future, I don’t know if he will be able to work, it depends in time what he will be like. We won’t know until the day comes.”