A YEAR AGO, Callista Dowling was facing an operation to correct an 85 degree curvature of her spine which could have paralysed her or claimed her life.

But now, the 13-year-old's life has been transformed by the surgery - and she is aiming to raise funds for the charity which supported her.

Callista, from Abercarn, was born with a neuromuscular condition, a type of congenital myopathy which results in a weakness of the muscles and also scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.

In May last year Callista was admitted into London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for urgent surgery to treat the 85 degree curvature of her spine.

Mum Chrisy Dowling 34, said her daughter's operation was ‘very worrying’ due to the potentially dangerous nature of the surgery.

Before the surgery her parents had to sign a disclosure form which included risks such as paralysis and even death.

“Cassie was 12 when she had the operation,” she said.

“So she was really young to have it, as they like to wait until you stop growing, but the curve [of her spine] had become more dangerous.”

Mrs Dowling explained that there was no evidence that anything was wrong with her daughter before she was born.

“I had a normal pregnancy, and everything was fine,” her mum said.

“But when she was born she was breech and wasn’t breathing and had to be put in intensive care –but was fine soon after.

“Then as routine she was referred to an orthopaedic to check her hips, but when she came in to have them checked the consultant said they were fine but wanted to X-ray her back.

“It was at this point-aged one, that they discovered she had a 17 degree curvature of her spine.

“The when she was two she has a muscle biopsy.

“From then on she was visiting the Royal Gwent Hospital every six months for a check up.

“By the time she was three she has a 25 degree curve –it was getting worse slowly.

“Then within six months it has gone from 25 degrees to 40 degrees, so she was referred to Cardiff where they monitored her for a while.”

Her mum who works as a paediatric nurse at the Royal Gwent Hospital added that Callista was made to wear a ‘Boston brace’ for two years, which acted like a tight corset to keep the spine straight.

“It was horrible,” Mrs Dowling said.

“It was really tight and in a set shape so she had to be moulded into the shape it was.

“At this point she was in an ‘S’ shape, and we were going back and forth to see a consultant in London, at a joint muscle and scoliosis clinic to see a special consultant for the spine and neuromuscular consultant at the same time.”

Consultants at Hammersmith Hospital in London then made Callista wear a custom-made brace in October 2004, which she wore for six years, before moving her to the Great Ormond Street Hospital aged nine.

“It was getting slowly worse so when she tuned ten doctors said that she needed spinal surgery urgently as X-rays showed curvature of 65 degrees,” Mrs Dowling said.

Surgery was carried out on May 1 last year for six and a half hours when the curve reached 85 degrees, with Callista having to be ventilated for 24 hours after the surgery.

Now Callista only suffers from a 22 degree curve.

“As she hit puberty her muscle weakness was more obvious and she couldn’t walk far and was tried more easily” her mum added.

Once in London her family also had the added problems of where to stay, but thanks to the Sick Children’s Trust her parents, Chrisy and Leighton were able to stay close by with younger brother, William, in Guilford Street House, a ‘Home from Home’ provided by the charity, located just around the corner from the hospital.

Now Callista and her friends have successfully raised £650 for the charity through a sponsored 365 day birthday challenge to say thank you to the charity.

Friends Laura and Rebecca Jolliffe and Katy Cousins, all 13, completed the fundraising challenge of filling a whole calendar with birthday entries in aid of children’s charity, The Sick Children’s Trust.

Callista who attends Cwmcarn High School, remains positive about her condition: “At the time I found it quite difficult but I have managed quite well,” she said.

“I don’t do sports at the moment but I enjoy subjects like creative writing at school.

“I thought it was a really good idea that my friends had about the fundraising and I am really looking forward to the fun day –my friends and I will me the hostesses for the night.”

To buy a ticket for the family fun evening at the Newport Centre on June 21, email chrisy.dowling1@sky.com or visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/365-day-birthday-challenge/