A GIRL who underwent a life-changing operation one year ago is preparing for more hard work in the coming months.

Willow Emmison-Neal, nine, from Skipwith, between York and Selby, was born with a form of cerebral palsy which affects her legs.

Her family and friends raised £60,000 to send her to the US for operations to reduce stiffness in her muscles by cutting some of the nerve fibres in the spinal cord, and lengthening her hamstrings.

A year on, Willow has just undergone another operation to lengthen her Achilles tendons, but her mother, Sally Neal, said her progress in the last 12 months has been incredible.

Sally said: “I think it’s scary, partly because of how fast the year has gone.

“She’s making good progress, but she’s still in casts after her last operation about a month ago. As far as we know, everything went okay, but we won’t know for sure until the casts are off and she’s walking again.

“We’re not anticipating any problems and this will allow her to have a better walking action.

“We’ll have to build her strength up again as six weeks in casts will have left her legs a bit weak.

“She’s had to go back to using a wheelchair again and at the start she wasn’t that happy about it, but she just gets on with it.”

Willow’s parents are currently speaking with physiotherapists and trainers about working together throughout the next year, and will again take her to Scotland this summer for an intensive course of training.

Sally said: “Patients have a two-year umbrella that whatever children are like at the end of two years is what they will be like afterwards.

“We’ve really got to give it all we’ve got for Willow to reach her potential so that feels quite daunting, but we still feel like it’s the best thing we did and it was definitely the right move for her.

“We went to a Christmas party and there was a magician.

“Willow was chosen to help with his tricks, standing on her own without sticks or a frame, so that’s an improvement but her confidence has also improved amazingly.

“It was a real treat to see her in her party clothes standing in front of the party.

“She wouldn’t have put her hand up 18 months ago, so it was nice for us to watch her enjoy herself.”