A CALDICOT mum is aiming to raise £40,000 for a pioneering operation she hopes will help her daughter walk on her own.

Two-year-old Imogen Ashwell-Lewis, of Lapwing Avenue, was born 11 weeks early – weighing three pounds and two ounces. She needs a radical procedure to save her from relying on a wheelchair.

Imogen suffers from a debilitating nerve-muscle condition known as spastic diplegia cerebral palsy which means she walks on her toes, has stiffness in her legs and poor balance and coordination. She relies on a specially-made wheelchair to get her around the house as her walker doesn’t reverse.

Her mum, Catherine Ashwell-Rice, 36, said: “Imogen is a bright, loving and chatty two-year-old but her condition prevents her from engaging like a normal two-year-old. She has to do unpleasant stretches every day to try and prevent the spasticity causing additional problems.”

Imogen was born prematurely after Ms Ashwell-Rice became unwell and was admitted to Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny.

The mum-of-eight said: “I was taken to theatre straight away and she was delivered on November 1, 2011. She was moved to the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport where she spent seven weeks before coming home just in time for Christmas.”

Imogen was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy at 15-months-old and has daily physiotherapy but her mum hopes a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) will help avoid further muscle deterioration and stiffness.

The procedure was developed by a surgeon at the St Louis Children’s Hospital, Missouri. It involves removing bone from one vertebrae and making an incision in the spine to divide nerve roots that contribute to the spasticity, giving more balance and enabling the patient to walk. Nearly 2,000 children have been treated at the hospital, enabling them to live active lives.

Ms Ashwell-Rice hopes Imogen will be able to have the surgery at a UK hospital – either Frenchay Hospital, Bristol or Great Ormond Street – where the op will cost £29,000 plus £11,000 for physiotherapy and aftercare.

She added: “Having this operation will hopefully allow Imogen to become independent by the time she starts school and improve her gait and balance.”

She has launched the ‘Help Imogen Walk Appeal’ and is planning fundraising events with volunteers, including a bucket collection around Chepstow pubs on February 22, a charity day at the Play Farm, Caldicot and a fun day on March 29 at the Severn View Social Club, Caldicot.

To help out, visit facebook.com/pages/Help-Imogen-walk or justgiving.com/helpimogenwalk