REMARKABLE images of Scots twins taking their first steps since undergoing life-changing surgery in the US have been posted by their family.
Ayley and Chloe Hirsch, 3, are seen having the times of their young lives after the operation released them from total dependence on their wheelchairs.
Parents Averil and Frazer raised £175,000 to send their daughters to St Louis, Missouri, for the delicate procedure to remove damaged nerves from their spines.
The procedure, carried out by world-famous surgeon Dr T.S. Park last month, appears to have been a huge success.
The family, from Carnoustie, Angus, arrived back in Scotland earlier this week and have posted dozens of pictures to their Facebook site.
The images show Ayley taking her first-ever unaided steps while Chloe walks with the aid of a special frame.
In other pictures, the girls are shown dressing up and pulling faces.
Both girls suffer from cerebral palsy and Dr Park, of St Louis Children’s Hospital, has a 100% success rate in carrying out the procedure, known as selective dorsal rhizotomy.
The pictures of the twins’ brave battle to walk have been posted on the family’s Facebook page called ‘Help Ayley and Chloe Walk’.
One shows Ayley walking on pink walking sticks, aided by a therapist, while another shows her running on a tiny treadmill in pink jogging trousers.
The caption on the photo reads: “Ayley pounding the treadmill again. x ”
Most remarkable of all are three images which show a delighted Ayley taking her first ever unaided steps, carefully watched by a therapist. In one of them she appears to be moving so quickly the image is blurred.
The caption reads: “WOW, WOW, go Ayley.”
Although Chloe’s progress is slightly behind that of her twin, she can clearly be seen taking steps with a walking frame in some of the photos, also with the help of her therapist.
The caption states: “Chloe in the walker.”
In one moving image, Ayley is seen pushing her sister Chloe in a tiny wheelchair in a St Louis park.
The twins, wearing matching blue jeans and cheerful lime-green tops look ecstatic with their progress after the operation.
Friend Anne Thomson wrote on the page: “The girls have achieved so much in such a short time. Well done.”
Another friend Laura Ramsay said: “This is just lovely 2 c them tryin so hard. What a journey. XXX”
The family made the 4,000-mile journey to Missouri on January 6 after more than a year of determined fund-raising. The twins’ big sister, Lily, stayed behind with relatives.
Frazer, who is self-employed, returned a few weeks after the operation to go back to work and be with his eldest daughter.
Averil stayed behind as a team of specialists worked with the girls to get them on their feet.
Averil posted just before flying home: “We are on our way to airport and very excited to be coming home. Thank you to Dr. Park & team and to the fantastic staff at the residence inn hotel – they have been amazing throughout our stay.
“Also to all the sdr (selective dorsal rhizotomy) families we have met and went through this journey with and great friends we have made. Thank you for helping me when Frazer was away home….love to you all and see you when we return next year…xxx”
The family, who have now recovered from jetlag after the long flight, posted on their wall yesterday telling of their relief to be home.
“We are all home and over our jet lag. Looking forward to the girls starting back at nursery and carry on with there physio everyday. Their progress is brillant. We are very pleased. Xxx”
The girls will now undergo intensive physiotherapy every day and will return to Missouri next year for a check up.