THE CARNOUSTIE twins who captured the hearts and minds of us all returned this week from their life-changing operations in America.
On Tuesday Ayley and Chloe Hirsch and mum Averil flew home to join dad Frazer and sister Lilly in Carnoustie.
The twins, who had suffered from cerebral palsy which inhibited their movement, underwent surgery and intensive physiotherapy in St Louis, Missouri.
On Wednesday the family invited the Guide & Gazette to see Ayley and Chloe’s miraculous improvement.
Having followed their campaign from the beginning, the change in the girls’ condition was immediately apparent.
Averil said: “The girls’ progress is fantastic. From the moment physio started they walked very well. They have their little tantrums but they carry on.
“Ayley was walking by herself and Chloe has a walking frame and can do 20 steps but then she gets tired.
“There’s no spasticity in their bodies any more. You notice it in the little things. Chloe’s speech has also improved. I didn’t expect it, but I was hoping for it. That operation is a miracle.”
Although they were tired from their long flight, Ayley and Chloe played happily while Averil chatted with the Guide & Gazette about their experiences.
She said: “The worst part would be the waiting through the operations and also seeing them being lifted out of their beds for the first time. That was the longest day of my life.
“The best bit was seeing Chloe walk in her walker by herself. There was no therapist there and she did it smiling. I was crying like a baby.”
Although thousands of miles from Carnoustie, the Hirsch family never felt isolated, so strong was the support both at the hospital and from people at home.
Averil said: “I don’t even know how to describe it. The hospital was out of this world for the care and just looked after us so well.
“And the power of Facebook! It was nice after Ayley and Chloe went to bed and I could read the comments. It made me feel like I was still at home.
“The support was so overwhelming. The day we flew out there were over 100 comments on my page and the girls’ page.
“Every day there were well-wishers and cards, even before we went. It was brilliant and that kept me going. It was just brilliant knowing that people back home were right behind us.”
The plan is now for the girls to continue with their physiotherapy, both at home and with a specialist therapist and next year return to the St Louis Children’s Hospital for assessment.
Averil explained: “I do physio every day with them, stretches every day and at least an hour of physio.
“We go back for a check up in April next year. Ayley might need to have her heel chords lengthened.”
Averil is full of confidence for the future: “We met with a gentleman called Marty there. He had the operation two years ago and he is 32.
“He went his whole life with cerebral palsy. He was a fantastic gentleman, he plays sports and goes running.
“When you walk into Dr Park’s office the wall is just filled with pictures of kids who have had the operation.
“We’re just going to try and go back to the way it was before the campaign and basically concentrate on their physio.”