Dreams really do come true!

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Despite growing up in different continents, some 12,700 km apart, Sonia 19, from Papua New Guinea and Rachael, 22, from Zambia, share the same profound dream – to walk pain-free.

After undergoing several surgeries and months of rehabilitation to lengthen their respective legs, (for Sonia, her left leg and Rach, her right leg), they are now one step closer.

When we asked the girls what it feels like to be so close to walking pain-free, they both echo; “it’s a dream come true!”

It really feels amazing. It’s a miracle,” smiles Sonia.

“I will finally be free from pain. I will be able to do all the things I stopped doing, like going to church, and more importantly, I will be self-dependent. I will be able to walk to school, to get the job I want,” reflects Rach.

From different corners of the world, these young women’s lives have weaved along with many parallel threads.

Sonia was just seven years old when she was diagnosed with chronic osteomyelitis, a rare degenerative bone disease, leaving her with one leg shorter than the other. Similarly, Rach was the tender age of one when she developed a wound that did not heal. By the time Rach was three, it left her with a hole in her hip, and like Sonia, one leg shorter than the other.

Despite various treatments at home, their conditions continued to deteriorate, and life became increasingly prohibitive. By the time they reached their late teens, getting to school had become almost impossible. For two bright young women who love studying, this was a further devastating blow.

Thankfully, both girls were referred to Children First Foundation.

Rach was first to arrive in late 2018.

Unfortunately, two months after her arrival, she developed an infection in her hip.

This required two unexpected surgical procedures and 12 months of treatment and medication, before her orthopaedic treatment could commence.

Meanwhile, soon after arriving in Australia in January 2020, Sonia was whisked into the operating theatre at Epworth Hospital.

Orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Minoo Patel re-aligned her leg and attached a cutting-edge device, designed to gradually lengthen the bone in her leg.

By February 2020 Rach was finally given the all clear, and her orthopaedic procedure followed suit, but this time at the St Vincent’s Private Hospital. Her surgeon, Associate Professor Leo Donnan, similarly inserted another state-of-the-art device on her thigh to lengthen her femur.

After a few nights in hospital, the girls each returned to The Retreat. What followed next was months of intense physiotherapy under the guidance of our amazing volunteer physiotherapist, Sue Bowman! As their legs strengthened, the girls were often known to have races down The Retreat hallway – you may have even seen the video of them below on our socials!

Three months on, Sonia and Rach celebrated a life-changing milestone as their respective legs were suitably lengthened.  In July, weeks apart from each other, the girls had subsequent operations to remove their individual lengthening device.

Despite living with such debilitating conditions for so many years, Sonia and Rachael say they never gave up on their dream of walking pain-free.

Standing tall, each admiring their newly lengthened leg, both Sonia and Rach couldn’t be more grateful.

“This is my message to all the donors, volunteers, doctors, and medical professionals. It is because of you that I have come this far. If it hadn’t been for your donation or your help, none of us kids would have had our surgeries, some would have died due to critical conditions.

I want to say thank you for your compassion towards us and for making our lives better. You have helped hundreds of small hearts and given hope to a million small souls,” says Rach.

While more physiotherapy will continue at The Retreat, Sonia and Rach are already looking forward to returning to school, and surprise, surprise, both dreaming of parallel careers!! Sonia’s sights are set on training as a doctor, while Rach as a nurse – what a team they could make!

Sonia and Rach’s stories on video

Sonia’s story on SBS World .
Rachael’s story- edited from an original video produced by Teagan Glenane.

If you’d like to transform the lives of more young people, like Sonia and Rach, please donate today.

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