Georgia on their minds

Photo to go with news story

A unique genetic condition limits Georgia Tolley’s sight, speech, hearing and movement. But she “lights up like a Christmas tree” when she’s near a horse.

The feeling is mutual. They’ll cross a paddock to be near the 10-year-old.

“She has such a peace about her that animals feel at ease, especially flight animals such as horses,” mum Stacey said.

“They get responses from her we can’t, even when she’s really unwell.”

Horses are doing more than putting a smile on Georgia’s face. They are helping her overcome her pain.

Georgia’s cells delete one particular chromosome and duplicate another. Geneticists at the Royal Children’s Hospital scoured global records and found fewer than 50 similar deletion cases. But none had Georgia’s duplication as well.

“She’s the only one in the world.”

“She’s the only one in the world,” said RCH expert David Amor.

Georgia was born at Bendigo Hospital and within days had a stroke and seizures. She had four lifesaving brain surgeries, many other operations and overcome meningitis and several other infections.

She amazed doctors by not only surviving but by going home at three months.

It was while sitting outside in her special wheelchair at the family’s Harcourt North property in central Victoria that Stacey noticed her horses were drawn to Georgia.

“When she was well enough I sat her on the pony. She loved it. She lit up like a Christmas tree, the feeling of freedom and being able to move,” Stacey said.

Stacey and her husband Darren have four other children, Jay, 16, Annaliese, 13, Isaiah, 9, and Alicia, 7. All are keen riders.

Bendigo pediatrician Dr Peter Wearne, who’s helped the family for years, said: “I didn’t think Georgia would survive the first few months let alone the first year. Even if I work another 50 years I don’t think I’ll see another child quite like Georgia.”

Her connection with horses was “fascinating”, he said.

“There is good evidence that companion animals are important. They sense something in people and people sense something in them. We now allow dogs and companion animals in our children’s ward.”

“She’s blessed our lives.”

Stacey, a volunteer with Riding for the Disabled, plans a therapy horses service.

She said she had learned from the best. “Georgia has taught me so much, how to stay calm, be patient and take life one day at a time. This has helped me with my horses,” she said.

“She has so little yet is so happy and content. She’s the master. We’re the one’s catching up, learning to cope.

“She’s blessed our lives.”

First published Herald Sun 13 August 2016. Author Mike Smith.

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