AECC University College Play Part in Young Cerebral Palsy Sufferer Walking for First Time

Thomas Hazelton was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two, a condition which left him in constant pain and his legs so stiff that he had to use a wheelchair. Thomas was in contact with Dorset Children Foundation, and our AECC University College’s Exercise Centre Manager at the time, Christopher Medcalf, offered his services to assist Tom with ‘prehab’, before he underwent Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) surgery.

Tom, at only six years old, appeared on the ITV hit show This Time Next Year, hosted by Davina McCall, and vowed to walk pain free within 12 months. After his surgery, Tom continued his rehab with Christopher at our on-site Exercise Centre and Chiropractic Clinic. The main goal was to assist Tom with regaining adequate control and stability in his hips and legs through co-ordination, strengthening and mobilisation of the lower limb.

During this time, Christopher suggested that Tom could benefit from chiropractic treatment alongside his rehab, and worked with final year chiropractic student Stephanie Miles to help Tom with his recovery programme and to carry out chiropractic care.

Christopher commented, “It took a while to gain Tom’s trust, as he was very apprehensive about doing any physical therapy whatsoever, and he didn’t have the best track record with physiotherapists at his school. Eventually, we found we had a mutual agreement and discovered a shared love for dinosaurs and superheroes, which is how Tom began to trust me. From the offset he was certain he wanted to be a comedian, singer and palaeontologist all in one. Over time, we developed that trust which is so important between a patient and their healthcare professional.”

Tom has been attending AECC University College’s clinical services for approximately a year and a half. Christopher, Stephanie and Tom’s more recent chiropractic intern, Eleanor Pennycook, all support Tom through his rehabilitation, and his mother too, who brings Tom to all his clinic treatments and has been very supportive of the University College’s care throughout.

Christopher continued to praise the quality the work of the final year interns, “Stephanie and Eleanor are both fantastic interns and will make wonderful chiropractors. They deserve the biggest congratulations as without them I don’t believe we would have got the results we have with Tom's care. This is a great example of health professionals working interdisciplinary for the best interests of the patient.”

Currently, Tom sees his intern Ellie one to two times per week, with alternate sessions of chiropractic care and rehab. He still sees Christopher from time to time, and their friendship and shared love of Marvel comics still continues on.

Catch Tom’s remarkable story in full on This Time Next Year, Tuesday 26 February, ITV at 8pm.