A WINCHESTER couple are battling to raise funds for life-changing surgery for their disabled daughter.

Jo and Andrew Syvret, of Norlands Drive in Otterbourne, need to raise £90,000 to send five-year-old Jemima to the USA for surgery and intense physiotherapy in a bid to help her walk on her own.

Born 11 weeks early with quadriplegia, a type of cerebral palsy, and weighing only 2lb 11oz, little Jemima fought for months to survive, battling numerous infections and a stomach condition which required surgery.

Now, with such supporters including Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave and local MP Steve Brine, her parents believe an operation, called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), is Jemima’s best hope.

The surgery involves severing nerves in the base of Jemima’s spine that send incorrect messages to her legs. Surgeons hope only ‘correct nerves’ will remain and, with intense physiotherapy, Jemima might be able to eventually walk unaided.

Mum, Jo, 39, who gave up her job as a chartered accountant to care for Jemima full time said it’s been a real challenge for the whole family and they just want Jemima to have a chance to keep up with brothers Oli, 8, and Freddie, four.

Mrs Syvret said: “It’s been really intense. Life’s hard enough with three kids, let alone when one of them is disabled. She was so poorly that we were expecting to lose her.

“We had to come to terms that she wouldn’t be ‘normal’. We didn’t know what the future held. You can see her potential and we want her to be as normal as she can. We want her to have a chance to do more.”

Raising over £20,000 so far, Jo has sold nearly £1,000 worth of homemade footsteps bracelets, while dad Andrew joins 20 businessmen from around Hampshire to row around the Isle of Wight on September 30. Even Jemima’s older brother Oli is doing a mini-triathlon in October with school friends.

Having settled well at Hiltingbury infants school, Jemima now needs funds to be able to pay for surgery equipment and rehabilitation at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri costing £40,000. Add travel and accommodation for Jemima and her parents over five weeks as well as a return visit the following year, costing £17,000, followed by intense physiotherapy and hydrotherapy up to five times per week over two years costing £30,000, the family need all the help they can to get the best chance for their little girl.

After being told by their paediatrician that strict UK criteria would not enable Jemima’s quadriplegia to be considered the family’s only option was to look abroad for the best care available.

Mrs Syvret explained: “The outcome for diplegics (both arms or both legs) is more predictable and the results, particularly for mild cases, can appear as a cure. With quadraglegics (both arms and legs) there are more issues and success is harder to measure.”

She said: “We have chosen to go to the world expert Dr Park who pioneered the technique and who has now operated on over 2,500 children with good results. The most important thing is that the best person does the surgery - not how much it costs.”

Visit http://www.treeofhope.org.uk/every-little-step-counts/ for more details about how to donate to Jemima’s cause. Any funds raised above her target will go towards helping other sick children.