(FOX 2) - Six-year-old Leylah Shelton has always needed to wear leg braces and use a walker to get around. Being able to run - let alone walk - on her own would be a dream come true.
"I wish that I would always be able to run," she said.
Leylah was just an infant when her parents, Ashlee and Jordan Shelton, noticed something wasn't quite right.
"We started noticing things around 6 months old when she wasn't sitting up properly," Ashley said. "And then it got worse at 1 when she wasn't even crawling, and then we kind of thought, her doctor told us she was a late bloomer. We weren't having that."
An MRI revealed Leylah had cerebral palsy, splastic diplegia, a condition that permanently affects her muscle control and coordination. After years of painful treatments and physical therapy, doctors told the Sheltons that Leylah had exhausted all efforts to recover on her own.
The only way she would be able to walk one day without assistance is if she underwent SDR, selective dorsal rhizotomy. Basically, surgeons operate to destroy the problematic nerves through the spinal cord.
"We're nervous. It's scary," Ashley said. "We are going to go through surgery and we are going to clip the problematic nerves, the ones causing her to tighten up. Not all of them, just a few of them. And then hopefully we can rebuild tone on her own."
It's a tough surgery that will require a two-month hospital stay and two years of extensive physical therapy. Insurance considers this life changing surgery elective, and only covers a portion of the costs. And then there's the after care to worry about, too.
March is cerebral palsy awareness month. To help Leylah and her family out, a bowling fundraiser has been planned on March 31 at Mayflower Lanes in Redford at 12 p.m. Relatives have also started a GoFundMe account.
But the Sheltons say it will be worth it, knowing their little girl with a big smile and loads of energy will someday be able to walk dance and run on her own.
"I can't wait to play tag with running," she said.
"It is journey and we are here for it," her father said.
"It is something we have to do because she deserves it," Ashley added.
If you'd like to make a donation to the family's GoFundMe account, you can do so online here.