A FOUR-YEAR-OLD boy from Dorset has overcome Covid travel restrictions to fly out to America with his family for a life changing operation.

Chester Walton suffers from quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a developmental disorder which means this motor functions are severely impaired, restricting him to a wheelchair.

Chester’s parents Ben and Sam set up the Cheers4Chester charity to raise £100,000 to send Chester to St Louis, USA, for a selective dorsal rhizotomy.

He did not qualify for the procedure under the NHS.

Despite travel from the UK to the US being banned, the Verwood family were granted a National Interest Exemption from the US embassy to travel to the States two weeks before Chester’s operation on March 2.

Chester’s dad Ben said: “The last couple of months have been a real challenge just to get this far. Obviously Covid has had a big impact on that.

“Firstly, Trump banned all travel from the UK last year to the US. This meant that anyone who comes over, rather than just getting a traditional ESTA, now has to have that as well as a National Interest Exemption.

“And then we had to get the Covid-19 tests within 72 hours of flying. That brings around fun and games because, if your flight is delayed and it falls outside of period of time when you plan to travel, you’ll have to take new ones.”

The surgery aims to reduce the extreme tightness of Chester’s muscles, or spasticity, allowing him to have more freedom of movement with the future ambition to stand and walk unaided.

The earlier the surgery is completed the more impact it will have and thus time is of the essence.

Chester has been having therapy since he was very young and, in preparation his flight to the US, he was having regular strength and conditioning sessions to help build up his strength prior to of his procedure.

Sam, Chester’s mum, added: “The surgery almost resets you back to a blank canvas, so he will lose of this tightness in his muscles and actually he will be quite weak initially.

“It is about teaching him how to control his body. Because cerebral palsy is brain damage, his body doesn’t necessarily know how to move.

“A neuro-typical child can just practice movement and their brain just know how to do it. But for Chester, his brain doesn’t know how to move so, like programming a computer, you have to teach him all these different patterns.”

Through their charity, more than £90,000 has been raised to get Chester and his parents out to the US – £70,000 since June last year alone.

“If you factor in the fact we had to change our flights at the last minute, extend our trip by a further two weeks to six weeks in total due to quarantine regulations and pay for additional accommodation, I think Covid-19 has probably cost us the best part of £5,000 extra this trip,” said Ben.

“However, the fundraising has been amazing.

“We had a load of plans booked in for last year but that was cancelled. We ended up doing a triple marathon with a group of friends and lots of other amazing friends have also fundraised for us too by organising their own events. In total we have raised about £90,000, which has been unreal.”

Sam added: “When Covid struck, we genuinely thought that we would have to push this all back by about a year because we thought there was no way that we would be able to raise all the money and everyone is in a financial state of worry themselves and we couldn’t do any of our events.

“But we have been absolutely blown away by the generosity of people, friends, family, people we don’t know that well and complete strangers. We seriously can’t thank everyone enough.”

The couple are appealing for donations to help fund the vital therapy sessions post-operation.

“Because the rehab is such a big commitment and we will be doing so much when we get back, we do want to crack on with it and get it done,” said Sam.

“We need to continue the fundraising because this is only the start of the journey actually. Having the operation is one thing, but then its two years of intensive rehab which is like three or four times a week.

“And then there afterwards, it’ll be for the rest of his life like once or week or something, and that is to give him the best chance possible of being able to walk one day, that is the aim.”

To donate to the fundraising page, click here.