WHEN a Chester family noticed their son was walking to one side, they initially put it down to blisters from the shoes he was wearing.

But after a check-up at Boughton Health Centre and a subsequent MRI at the Countess of Chester Hospital, Joe Grundy's parents were shocked to be told he had a spinal tumour which was threatening to cut off his spine and nervous system.

Joe, dad Paul and mum Ali immediately went to Alder Hey Children's Hospital, with the stark news that if the tumour was not removed, it would kill their son.

But after a 10-and-a-half hour surgery, Joe's spinal tumour was removed, with metal plates and screws put in.

Joe, 13, has since made a fantastic recovery and, to thank the "remarkable" team of surgeons who saved Joe's life, dad Paul – a pilot for Jet2 – will be joining airport staff on a charity bike ride from Manchester Airport to Alder Hey and back again on June 26.

Paul, whose family live in Hoole, explained the sequence of events which led to Joe needing to get emergency surgery.

He said: "It was last July, and we were noticing things like him using both hands to pick up his glasses, and when we were on holiday in the south of France, he looked like he was walking quite strangely, using his hips to throw his legs forward. He said his hips were fine, it was just blisters from his shoes.

"We came back from holiday and, after quarantine, we went to Chester Zoo and noticed he was still walking quite strangely, off to one side.

"We went to Boughton Health Centre, where they identified a muscular health issue, and we went to the Countess of Chester Hospital and he had an MRI, which revealed a dumbbell-shaped tumour in the neck and spinal cavity, causing motor issues in his body.

"When they said it was around the arterial feed to his brain, I thought we had lost him at that point, as I didn't think surgery around such a delicate area was possible.

"We were whisked off to Alder Hey Children's Hospital, and we were told by one of the surgeons: 'We have seen this before,' saying it has got to come out, otherwise it will kill him."

After the operation, which removed all the tumour and decompressed the cord, taking the top four vertebrae and replacing them with screws and metal plates, Joe came home after five days, having made fantastic recovery physically.

Paul was told it was a "vitally important operation" as, if Joe had fallen over while playing football, the tumour could have cut off the diaphragm, preventing Joe from breathing and potentially killing him.

He added: "To see Joe now, apart from the scar and slight hair loss, you would not be able to tell he had an operation – he is a tough cookie. The team at Alder Hey are absolutely amazing and incredible people.

"Our lives changed within 24 hours – we were put in a tailspin. It's just the most traumatic thing I have heard in my life.

"We are so, so lucky to have Alder Hey on our doorstep, it's an amazing, incredible place."

And in a remarkable twist of fate, Paul's mum – who also had to have a spinal tumour removed from the same part of the body – was operated on by a surgeon who trained one of the surgeons who saved Joe's life.

The coincidence is all the more remarkable as it was confirmed to Paul the spinal tumour was not a hereditary condition.

Upton High School pupil Joe still requires follow-up appointments every few months to monitor his spine and make sure the tumour does not return, and will be in the care of Alder Hey until he turns 18.

To thank Alder Hey, the Jet2 Manchester team, supported by Easyjet and former Monarch Airlines airline staff, will on June 26 be cycling from Manchester Airport's Terminal 1 Jet2 check-in to Alder Hey and back, on what they're planning to be a populated route so they can win support from people cheering them on.

Jet2 colleague and friend of Paul, Mark Fegan, is helping to co-ordinate the fundraiser.

He said an initial target of £2,000 had already been broken, and the team is now looking to raise £5,000 which will help fund the vital work that goes on at the children's hospital.

The fundraisers will be dressed in Alder Hey charity clothing, will have a minibus following them in support, and have received a £250 donation from Jet2 founder Philip Meeson.

In addition, The Romper pub will be laying out free food and drink for the team of fundraisers upon successful completion of their challenge.

To help the team's fundraising efforts, donate on their funding page at https://gofund.me/2a6f4b6e