So is the stem cell treatment the miracle that it sounds? Professor Brendon Noble, adviser to the UK Stem Cell Foundation, says caution should be exercised in interpreting Holly’s improvement.
‘There is not enough known,’ he says. ‘Any new medicine or drug or stem cell therapy has to go through clinical trials, for safety checks and also to prove that it does something positive with respect to the condition.
‘This has not gone through clinical trials and has not been proven to work. Scientifically it is incredibly complex. If you’ve got some stem cells, they can turn into different cells but they normally turn into a particular cell type because they have a particular cue — they are prodded to do it, by us in a lab or a medicine production unit,’ he says.
‘Squirting them into the body and hoping they do what you want them to do . . . it’s just uncertain. But I celebrate the fact that there appears to be improvement.’
Holly’s cerebral palsy was caused by her traumatic birth in November 2005.
Fiona’s labour was progressing normally when her Caesarean scar from her son Oliver’s birth two years earlier ruptured in her womb. Fiona was examined and told that Holly’s head had moved into her mother’s abdomen as a result — the doctors would have to perform an emergency Caesarean under general anaesthetic.
The placenta had broken away; Holly had been without oxygen for 35 minutes.
Doctors said if she survived she would be ‘brain dead’.
At one week old, Holly was given an electroencephalogram to record electrical brain activity. Confounding the prognosis, it indicated only moderate damage. The doctors refused to believe it and told Holly’s parents to take the results with ‘a pinch of salt’.