Swaffham youngster chosen to be football mascot for Peterborough United and Leeds United match

A Swaffham father is 'chuffed' after his daughter who suffers with spina bifida was selected as a mascot for a championship football match.

Shane Buckley, 49, of Coronation Grove, said he will be proud to see Amber, eight, on the pitch with Peterborough United players during their home match against Leeds United on August 25.

She was selected by the charities Shine, which supports families and individuals affected by spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and the Peterborough-based Free Kicks Foundation, which provides football-related activities for ill, bereaved and disadvantaged children.

Mr Buckley, who is a full-time carer for his daughter along with his wife Coral, 42, said it will be even more exciting as he is a lifelong Leeds United fan.

'I will also be a bit jealous as Amber will meet with the Leeds players,' he added.

Amber, a Swaffham Junior School pupil, was born with spina bifida, which is caused by a split in the spine and affects the central nervous system, but despite this she is 'strong-willed'.

Along with her twin sister Georgia, she was born 12 weeks premature at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and soon developed hydrocephalus.

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Mr Buckley said he believes the latter condition is more dangerous because it is a build-up of cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) in the brain.

CSF is produced constantly inside ventricles in the brain and if it is not drained off into the bloodstream it can cause the ventricles to swell.

Amber underwent an operation for the hydrocephalus at just 18 months old and a valve, called a shunt, was put in her brain to prevent any blockages.

But if that is damaged or affected, it must be fixed within one hour otherwise Amber could potentially die.

Mr Buckley said: 'When the doctors said she had spina bifida, I didn't know what to say. I went numb.

'The worst case scenario was that she could never walk, talk or go to school. She has progressed much better than we thought she would. She is never going to be out of the woods but she is brilliant.'

Mrs Buckley said: 'She will try everything. She won't let anything hold her back.'

Amber, who wants to become a teacher, receives one-to-one support at school and is top of her class - her favourite subjects are maths and computers and she loves swimming.

She has to use crutches and because of the spina bifida her left leg and foot are numb and she does not have good balance.

It is possible she may have to use a wheelchair when she is older because of ligaments which are tethered to her spine.

Mr Buckley said: 'She gets tired very quickly. Some days she can walk into town but some days she cannot walk 20 yards. Amber can trip over a matchstick her balance is so bad.'

He has been a fan of Leeds United and the Leeds Rhinos rugby league team for 45 years and thinks the score on August 25 will be 1-1.

Amber thinks the result will be 2-1 to Peterborough and she will walk out with her favourite Peterborough player - midfielder Joe Newell.

Mr Buckley raised �500 for Shine after completing the Great Eastern Half Marathon in Peterborough in October last year.

For more information about the Free Kicks Foundation, visit www.freekicksfoundation.org and for information about Shine, visit www.shinecharity.org.uk