When Eliza Quinn was born 10 weeks prematurely, she passed her newborn tests with flying colours - but her parents soon noticed some development issues.
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Eliza's legs were crossing automatically or 'scissoring' when she was lifted, and a private physiotherapist mentioned the possibility of cerebral palsy and braced Eliza's family for the chance Eliza would never crawl or walk.
Eliza was eventually diagnosed with spastic diplegia - a form of cerebral palsy marked by stiff limbs. She was connected with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) in Dubbo when she was four-and-a-half and underwent a spinal operation when she was five.
Eliza was the 17th child in Australia to have the specific surgery, where nerves were severed to help alleviate spastic tightening of her muscles. When Eliza was 12, she underwent a second surgery, this time on both her legs.
Eliza's parents said Eliza has continually surprised her doctors - and now, as a 14-year-old, she is not only walking, but dancing, and preparing to perform on stage in Disney's The Lion King JR. musical with Drama Club Dubbo.
Eliza told the Daily Liberal performing on stage makes her happy. "It's fun. I like the lights and all that," Eliza said.
Eliza's mum, Fiona, said Eliza had always been confident, and she thinks this might have helped her bounce back after her operations.
"She's always had confidence even when she was like in preschool, I remember her loving singing and dancing in front of her friends," Fiona said.
"She's always been quite a confident person which has always helped her get through things, I think too because she doesn't tend to let these things get her down, but she's always been quite confident and I have to say Drama Club Dubbo is very inclusive too.
"Eliza doesn't go and feel different. She's never made to feel ... if she has trouble with some of the moves, it's never a big deal."
Eliza's dad, Michael, said the surgeries were life-changing for Eliza - as was being able to access specialist help by the CPA locally, which saved the Quinn family, including Eliza's little sister Juliet (now 11 years old), from travelling to Sydney repeatedly for treatment.
Eliza met with a CPA psychologist before her spinal surgery to understand what was happening, and after her surgery, she began physio and strengthening work with CPA in Dubbo and made great strides.
"I've been going there for ages and I like all the people there and it just kind of feels welcoming," Eliza said.
Eliza is in Year 8 at Dubbo College South Campus, and was selected for a high achievers program. Now, she doesn't require assistance to walk aside from ankle foot orthosis. Her next goal is to walk completely unaided.
IN OTHER NEWS
The CPA is a global centre of expertise for cerebral palsy research, advocacy, intervention and assistive technology innovation.
Professor Iona Novak, CPA chair of allied health at The University of Sydney, will be presenting to Dubbo clinicians and allied health professionals on October 31, to give them the skills to improve outcomes for Dubbo clients with cerebral palsy.
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