Gabriel Chapman, of Lansdowne Crescent, Darton, was taken into A and E on Christmas Eve after suffering from stomach pain.
The Kexborough Primary School student had complained of being ill and his eyes feeling ‘baking hot’ beforehand, but his parents thought it was symptoms of a cold because of the time of year.
When Gabriel couldn’t sleep because of the pain on Christmas Eve, he was taken to Barnsley Hospital by his dad Mark, and collapsed when being seen by a consultant. After this, he realised he couldn’t stand and could no longer feel his legs.
Gabriel’s mum Jayne was waiting at home with his older brother Jacob and said when she received a call from Mark she couldn’t believe what was happening.
“Mark said ‘he’s paralysed, he can’t walk’ and I couldn’t believe it,” said Jayne, 49. “He (Gabriel) had walked into the hospital fine and now he couldn’t walk... I couldn’t understand what was going on. It’s not what you expect on Christmas Day.
“The consultant said that he should be transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.”
Gabriel spent five hours having MRI and CT scans, as well as needing a lumbar puncture, with the staff at Sheffield Children’s Hospital working throughout Christmas Day to find the cause.
“The whole time it was happening, Gabriel was really calm, even though he couldn’t move from his waist down,” said Jayne.
“Doctors told us that he may never walk again. That was our Christmas present - he may never walk again. It was a bit of a shock when you have a nine-year-old boy who regularly competes in gymnastics and we were told he may be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.”
Four days later, clinicians at the hospital diagnosed a rare condition known as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which is a brief but intense attack of inflammation in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
That same night, Gabriel was able to lift his toe while a consultant was checking him over.
The movement gave the family hope that he would walk again, but they were advised his recovery could take as long as 18 months.
Gabriel surpassed those expectations and he was able to go home after just 23 days at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
He is now able to walk, but his family say he is still recovering.
“It was just sheer determination,” said Jayne. “Gabriel never gave up. As soon as he moved his toe he told his consultant he was going to walk.
“He is now back at school full-time but the hospital have been out to the school and certain things to help him have been put in place. He is walking unaided most of the time.”
Gabriel ran four laps around Dorothy Hyman Sports Centre in Cudworth to raise money for the neurosciences ward and raised £300 for ward five at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
“We are so thankful to all the staff, they have been great,” added Jayne.
“And all we can say is thank goodness for Barnsley Hospital as they knew something was wrong and sent us straight to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.”