A seven-year-old boy who had to learn to walk and talk again following major brain surgery has had his dream come true after meeting his hero Captain America.
Thomas Cotton, of Great Whelnetham, was left paralysed down the left side of his body following the life-saving procedure to disconnect half of his brain which was needed to stop frequent seizures caused by rare condition Rasmussen’s Encephalitis.
Following intensive rehab, the brave youngster - dubbed his parents’ ‘little miracle’ - can now walk and talk again and is able to attend mainstream school in his home village.
In recognition of his courage, the superhero fan was given the chance to meet his favourite costumed crimefighter Capatin America at Rougham Control Tower - organised by the Make a Wish Foundation.
“He said it was his ‘best day ever’ and thanks to the kind-hearted people of Bury and beyond it was certainly a day for wishes to come true,” said his dad James. “It was just a perfect way to draw a line under what has happened.”
After being given his own Captain America costume and shield, Thomas and his family were picked up by a stretch limo and taken to Rougham Control Tower, where he was greeted by his hero.
He was shown around the tower and was able to view aircraft landing and taking off.
They were then chauffeured to restaurant Giraffe, in Bury, for dinner and Thomas was even treated to a Captain America themed cake.
Mr Cotton, 37, and his wife Joanne, 40, want to thank everyone involved for pulling out all the stops for their son’s special day. He was nominated for the encounter to the Foundation by epilepsy specialist nurse Kirsten McHale.
Mr Cotton said: “They interviewed Thomas to ask him what he would like to do and he said ‘I would like to go the Abbey Gardens for an ice-cream’ which sums my son up - he doesn’t expect anything from life. He loves all the super heroes and he said he would like to meet Captain America.”
It provided some much needed relief following the gruelling and life-changing ordeal which started more than four years ago. Mr Cotton said Thomas had been a ‘perfectly healthy’ little boy until aged two and half when he suffered two massive seizures.
After several tests, doctors discovered he had a form of epilepsy and was given a range of medications which provided temporary relief.
“It would give him a honeymoon period but it got to the point where he was having seizures all day long and almost living in hospital.”
In July 2012 doctors removed a temporal lobe from his brain as they initially believed he had a tumour or a lesion but the seizures soon returned and were ‘worse than ever’.
After further tests he was diagnosed the following month with Rasmussen’s Encephalitis - a rare condition with less than 500 cases worldwide and which was affecting the right side of his brain causing the seizures.
Mr Cotton said: “Throughout his illness it was heartbreaking - when he had his diagnosis the doctor took a tissue out of his pocket and he was actually crying and a lot of the nurses were in tears.”
The only solution was a 10 hour operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital known as a functional hemispherectomy to disconnect the right side of his brain.
The seizures stopped ‘almost instantly’ but he was left paralysed down the left side of his body and had to endure three months of intense rehab at charity Young Epilepsy, in Lingfield.
“He had to learn everything again - he had to have speech and language therapy becuase he had regressed completely and he had to have rehab just to learn to walk again.”
Thomas has now regained 60 and 30 per cent of his leg and arm movement respectively but will never be able to use his hand. He has also lost the vision in the left side of both eyes. The youngster wears a leg brace to help him walk as well as a support on his arm and across his chest.
Mr Cotton said: “Everything for him is harder but he doesn’t really see anything as an obstacle - he just gets along. He calls it his sleepy arm and sleepy leg. He’s our little miracle.”