Alex Gunning, whose Dad serves in the British Army, has been named ‘Little Trooper of the Month’ for showing immense bravery, strength and determination during a difficult 12 months, which started with his Dad being deployed for eight months, and ended with him having life-saving surgery.
Alex lives in Tidworth with his parents and his older sister Jessica. In January last year, Alex’s Dad was deployed on military operations overseas until September. Missing their Dad was hard enough for Alex and his sister, but in April, Alex started to suffer with severe back pain which got worse over the coming months. After several trips to the doctors, the family still didn’t have any answers.
Alex’s pain continued to get worse through the summer and into September, when his Dad returned home from deployment and Alex started secondary school. He was in so much pain by November that he could no longer stand or lay flat on his back and his parents rushed him to A&E where he was diagnosed with a tumour on his spinal cord.
Alex was transferred to Southampton’s Children’s Neurosurgery Ward where he waited a week for an operation to have the tumour removed, by which point he was struggling to walk and had numbness in his legs.
Following the operation, Alex was in a lot of pain and couldn’t feel his legs. Doctors warned the family that he might not be able to walk properly again or have control of his bladder. However, Alex surprised everyone when just two weeks after the surgery he was moving himself from the bed to the wheelchair and was able to stand up unaided for a few seconds. A week later he was taking steps with a frame. By the time he was discharged in December he could walk with crutches. Alex came home just in time for Christmas and three days later he ditched his crutches and has been walking around without them ever since.
Mum Cara, comments: “The determination and strength Alex has is extraordinary. Through all the pain and struggles he always had a smile on his face and we couldn’t be prouder. He’s still a bit wobbly on his feet and gets very tired but he’s doing amazingly well. He’s now back at school for three mornings a week, which has been a challenge in itself as he only started there in September and has had a lot of time off, so he’s almost starting again. His physical and mental recovery has been greatly helped by the unconditional love and support from his older sister, Jessica, who has been his medicine through all of this.”
Alex was nominated for the Little Trooper of the Month Award by his teaching assistant Mrs Tyrkot. He will receive a medal, certificate and a £50 voucher from Little Troopers.
Commenting on his award win, Alex said: “I was very worried when the doctor told us I had a tumour in my spine. I was in lots of pain so I was glad to be having the operation to have it taken out. When I woke up after surgery, I was really scared because I couldn’t feel my legs. The physios at the hospital were amazing even though they did wake me up early some days. They gave me lots of exercises to help me walk again. I’m glad to be back at school now and I can’t wait to be able to play basketball and ride my bike again. Winning the award has made me happy and proud of myself for what I have overcome.”
Louise Fetigan, founder of Little Troopers, said: “Alex is an incredible little trooper. 2022 was such a tough year for him and his family and we were amazed to hear about his recovery and determination to walk again so soon after his surgery. Our Little Trooper of the Month Award scheme was set up to recognise military children who have been especially brave, resilient and strong and Alex is all of those things and more. We hope he wears his Little Troopers medal with pride.”
This month’s Little Trooper of the Month Award has kindly been sponsored by The Institute of Supply Chain Management (IoSCM)