‘Fighter’ Riley starts school against all the odds

Riley Nelson, from Chorley, born at 26 weeks
Riley Nelson, from Chorley, born at 26 weeks
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For the first year of his life, experts believed Riley Nelson would never walk.

The Chorley youngster was born 14 weeks prematurely and relied on machines to breathe for him.

Riley Nelson, from Chorley, born at 26 weeks with mum Tanya Holden

Riley Nelson, from Chorley, born at 26 weeks with mum Tanya Holden

He later developed hydrocephalus, and has undergone 15 brain operations in his first four-and-a-half years of life.

But now, “fighter” Riley has amazed his family and beaten the odds to start school. “I’m so proud of him”, said Riley’s mum Tanya Holden, 23.

“They said he would never walk, and they said he wouldn’t go to mainstream school.”

Tanya, who works for Preston Council, said her pregnancy was “absolutely fine”, until she went into labour at just 26 weeks.

CLASS ACT: Riley Nelson as a premature baby

CLASS ACT: Riley Nelson as a premature baby

She said: “Nothing could stop him coming – he came that night at 10.34pm weighing 2lb 8oz. They said he should only have been about 1.5lb, so it worked in his favour.”

Riley was on a ventilator for three days and then a machine to help him breathe for 35 days, before remaining on oxygen for nine months.

Tanya said: “At the time I think I was shocked.

“I was only 18, I wasn’t ready – it happened so quickly it didn’t really sink in.”

Riley had also suffered a bleed on his brain and, after going home at 80 days old, Tanya realised his head was getting bigger and he was taken to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

She said: “I noticed he was sleepy and drowsy and his head was getting a lot bigger.

“We had an MRI scan in the January and it showed he had developed hydrocephalus and showed the bleed had clotted – his head was getting bigger because the brain couldn’t move the fluid around.

“He went for surgery in February 2010 and they put a shunt in.

“It is tubing which goes from his brain down to his stomach and the brain fluid, when it gets to where the blockage is, goes down to the stomach and back to the brain.

“It broke again the year after, and we were in the hospital for 11 weeks on and off where he had nine surgeries.”

Riley was “absolutely fine” from then until January this year when the shunt broke again.

In February, he had high pressure on the brain and went back to hospital where a new shunt was fitted, but pressure built up in half his brain and he needed an endoscopic septostomy.

It allowed the liquid on his brain to move from one side to the other but, following the surgery, Riley developed chemical meningitis.

However since then, the youngster has improved and gone from strength to strength, although he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in June.

Tanya said: “Over the years he has been developmentally behind, and he’s a bit delayed.”

But Riley last week had his first day at Euxton St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, and his mum said he was “brilliant”.

She said: “He’s very sociable, so although we’ve got a lot of delays and problems, he’s very sociable and needs other children.

“He loves it, he won’t stop talking about it and he’s brilliant.

“On his first day he told me to go, he said ‘I’m a big boy – I don’t need you’.

“I’m so proud of him, it’s unbelievable. If you see him he just looks so normal.

“But he can’t go and play football because if it hits his head his shunt will break.”

Throughout the first year of Riley’s life Tanya was told he would never walk, and she said: “He didn’t roll over or sit up or support his own head.

“He didn’t make any improvement.

“He was about 15 or 16 months and he started to move and just got up and started doing things - him and his brother Brody did everything at the same time.

“They are really good and he is doing really well – I’m so proud of him.”