The determination of Kitty Kerr not to let complex disabilities hold her back has earned her the 2017/18 Panathlon Outstanding Achievement award for Gloucestershire.
Nine-year-old Kitty has inspired team-mates in Panathlon events with her positive attitude in the face of severe physical restrictions caused by diplegic cerebral palsy.
The pupil at St Gregory the Great Primary School in Cheltenham was diagnosed aged one with her condition, which was caused by a temporary lack of oxygen being delivered to her brain before birth.
Consequently, messages from her brain to her muscles are mixed up and makes her muscles tighten, rather than relax, which is known as spasticity. She couldn’t walk unaided and even that took considerable effort.
Several interventions to reduce the impact of her tightened muscles have had little long-term effect, and Kitty’s parents saved and fundraised for her to have an operation on her spine called Selective Dorsal Rhisotomy (SDR) that eradicates spasticity. The surgery is not yet funded by the NHS.
The donations enabled Kitty’s operation to take place at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children in November 2017 and she had 75% of her sensory nerves cut to stop the spasticity. However, Kitty still faces years of intensive training to enable her to walk independently.
It is anticipated she will need to follow a structured exercise programme and intensive physiotherapy until she stops growing and then in adulthood follow a maintenance course of exercises which will include strengthening and stretching. She has made amazing progress so far and at present is using sticks to walk.
Amidst all this personal and physical upheaval, Kitty’s resilient and upbeat attitude has been remarkable, and left her teachers in no doubt that she deserved a nomination for the Outstanding Achievement award.
Teacher Will Banwell said: “Kitty has been a very strong, determined girl – but in this last year she has really shone with her resilience and has been an inspiration to many of us.
“She was fed up of cerebral palsy holding her back, so she has taken some very brave steps and, with the tireless support of her loving family, is constantly working very hard to be the same as her friends.
“She dreams to walk, dance and become a midwife, like her mum used to be. In order to fulfill her dreams she needs to work twice as hard, have a very strong will and keep a positive attitude, even when it gets tough.”
Kitty applies her ‘give it a go’ attitude to sport and Panathlon has given her the opportunity to take part in physical exercise from which she had previously been excluded.
“It gave her confidence, excitement and a chance to see that she needs not be limited by her disability,” commented Mr Banwell.
He added:“We put her forward for the award because she is always very positive and tries so very hard to not let cerebral palsy stop her from enjoying life and joining in. She always shines during Panathlon events because she always tries her best and has a great and inspirational attitude towards every new challenge that life throws at her.”