Mother shares heartwarming moment her disabled daughter, 10, takes her first steps12 min read

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A devoted mum who shared a heartbreaking dream on Facebook in which her disabled daughter could walk, has told how it moved her community to raise £1,600 in just 72 hours for a special leg brace – enabling the schoolgirl to take her first steps.

Born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, at just 10-years-old Tarli Staines has already endured four major hip operations and untold pain, yet the little girl’s unyielding courage has left her mum, Leonie, 33, ‘blown away.’

But on 22 November, mother Leonie Staines, of Lincoln, who also has two sons, Ethan, 15, and Harvey, four, with her former partner Luke, woke in the early hours troubled by a dream that her daughter, whose movement is severely affected by her condition, could walk.

Shaken, she wrote on Facebook, ‘I knew I was dreaming and I felt so angry, but I didn’t want it to end. I woke up crying and felt guilty – but it got me thinking. What if when Tarli dreams, she’s walking? Just breaks my heart.’

Supportive comments from family and friends flooded in and, by the next day, a GoFundMe page had been set up to raise money for a special brace that would enable the little girl to finally take those longed-for first steps.

Leonie Staines, 33, of Lincoln, shared a heartbreaking dream on Facebook in which her disabled daughter Tarli, 10, could walk, and told how it moved her community to raise £1,600 in just 72 hours for a special leg brace - enabling the schoolgirl to take her first steps

Leonie Staines, 33, of Lincoln, shared a heartbreaking dream on Facebook in which her disabled daughter Tarli, 10, could walk, and told how it moved her community to raise £1,600 in just 72 hours for a special leg brace – enabling the schoolgirl to take her first steps

Astonishingly, the target was reached in just 72 hours, followed soon after by Leonie, her daughter’s full-time carer, seeing her dream come true.

She said: ‘On 26 November, just four days after I’d put up the Facebook post, Tarli took her first steps wearing the brace.

‘She sobbed and sobbed afterwards and said she had never been so happy in her life.

‘The kindness and generosity we’ve been shown has left me speechless. People will never know quite what they’ve done for us. 

Astonishingly, the target was reached in just 72 hours, followed soon after by Leonie, her daughter's full-time carer, seeing her dream come true (pictured)

Astonishingly, the target was reached in just 72 hours, followed soon after by Leonie, her daughter’s full-time carer, seeing her dream come true (pictured)

Born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, at just 10-years-old Tarli Staines has already endured four major hip operations and untold pain, yet the little girl's unyielding courage has left her mum, Leonie 'blown away'

Born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, at just 10-years-old Tarli Staines has already endured four major hip operations and untold pain, yet the little girl’s unyielding courage has left her mum, Leonie ‘blown away’

‘I’d accepted that Tarli wouldn’t walk, but now, thanks to the community, she has done. Now, I’m thinking about what else she may one day be able to do – and how do you even begin to say thank you for being given that hope?’

Born in July 2009 at just 30 weeks in a hospital in Germany, where the family then lived as Luke was in the armed forces there, little Tarli weighed just 3lb 7oz .

‘I had gone into labour early, and doctors had tried everything to stop it progressing and give Tarli some time to grow stronger, but then she declined and really wasn’t doing well at all,’ explained Leonie.

Not breathing at first, the newborn was whisked straight to the neonatal intensive care unit and put on a ventilator – so fragile that her mum only hugged her for the first time when she was eight days old.

As she uses a wheelchair to get around, Leonie said she had accepted she may never see her little girl take her first steps

As she uses a wheelchair to get around, Leonie said she had accepted she may never see her little girl take her first steps

For six long weeks, the tiny tot remained in hospital, gravely ill as she fought off sepsis – a life threatening reaction to an infection – and collapsed lungs.

‘We had none of our extended family out there, so we were in real emotional turmoil,’ said Leonie.

‘I’d get a call first thing to say Tarli was doing well, then by the time I’d got Ethan to school and got to the hospital, she would have suddenly gone downhill.

‘She fought off infection after infection. We really were taking things day by day.’

At six weeks old, the day before she was discharged, a brain scan revealed that Tarli had sustained some damage, after being deprived of oxygen during her birth.

Tarli and her eldest brother Ethan as she is seen standing in her special leg brace

Tarli and her eldest brother Ethan as she is seen standing in her special leg brace

Tarli recovering from hip surgery - despite being just 10 years old she has already had four major surgeries

Tarli recovering from hip surgery – despite being just 10 years old she has already had four major surgeries

At that point doctors could only be sure that it would affect her movement, balance and coordination.

‘Phoning home to break the news to family back in the UK was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,’ said Leonie.

Discharged from hospital at six weeks old, tiny Tarli continued to struggle, particularly with feeding and sleeping and her mum feared she was ‘constantly in pain.’

Eventually, living in Germany – so far from family and with the risk of having to move again for Luke’s work – was too difficult and, just after Christmas 2010, the family returned to the UK.

Pictured: Tarli's emotional reaction to the IKAN brace after she took her first steps

Pictured: Tarli’s emotional reaction to the IKAN brace after she took her first steps

Tarli recovering from hip surgery, she was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy just before her first birthday in summer 2010

Tarli recovering from hip surgery, she was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy just before her first birthday in summer 2010

‘We packed up our life there and set up a new one back here,’ said Leonie,

‘We just felt like Tarli’s medical care all needed to come from one place, and it would help to be around family, too.’

Taking her daughter straight to the GP, Leonie explained that she was not hitting her milestones, like crawling or sitting up and, within six weeks, she began a course of physiotherapy to help her build strength in her limbs.

Then, following further assessments at Lincoln County Hospital, she was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy just before her first birthday in summer 2010.

According to the NHS, cerebral palsy, of which there are four main types, is characterised by problems with movement, coordination and development, such as muscle spasms, weak limbs, random, uncontrolled movements and decreased muscle tone.

Born in July 2009 at just 30 weeks in a hospital in Germany, where the family then lived as Luke was in the armed forces there, little Tarli weighed just 3lb 7oz

Born in July 2009 at just 30 weeks in a hospital in Germany, where the family then lived as Luke was in the armed forces there, little Tarli weighed just 3lb 7oz

The form Tarli has affects both her arms and legs and means that her muscles are stiff and tight, making it difficult for her to move

The form Tarli has affects both her arms and legs and means that her muscles are stiff and tight, making it difficult for her to move

The form Tarli has affects both her arms and legs and means that her muscles are stiff and tight, making it difficult for her to move.

‘I don’t know how, but on some level, I think I knew that she had cerebral palsy,’ said Leonie. ‘I had done a lot of my own research and all the symptoms matched hers.

‘Doctors said she wouldn’t be able to walk or talk and would need lifelong care. It was really hard, hearing their expectations.

‘At first, things were really difficult. She would either cry or sleep. There was no real personality there and she seemed to be in pain all the time.

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‘Then, at 14 months old, I was singing to her one day and she clapped her hands together, of her own accord. It was the first time she’d shown any coordinated movement, so it was a real breakthrough. I thought, ‘Here we go.’

‘It was like she suddenly got it and she’s blown me away ever since.’

Remarkably, the plucky youngster has since gone from strength to strength, far surpassing her doctors' expectations when she was first diagnosed

Remarkably, the plucky youngster has since gone from strength to strength, far surpassing her doctors’ expectations when she was first diagnosed

At three-and-a-half, she began talking and six months later, aged four, she taught herself to get around by commando crawling. She is seen now

At three-and-a-half, she began talking and six months later, aged four, she taught herself to get around by commando crawling. She is seen now

Remarkably, the plucky youngster has since gone from strength to strength, far surpassing her doctors’ expectations when she was first diagnosed.

At three-and-a-half, she began talking and six months later, aged four, she taught herself to get around by commando crawling.

‘What Tarli has been through has been never-ending, but she doesn’t have that side of her where she sits and complains. Instead, she just gets on with it,’ said Leonie, proudly.

‘She’s the most positive, driven little girl I’ve ever met and she has gone above and beyond what anybody said she could do.

‘She’s so headstrong that she doesn’t want to just sit there. She’s determined to find a way of doing things for herself and has the patience of a saint. She doesn’t mind how long something takes her, as long as she is able to do it without any help.’

Despite her unwavering positivity, life has been tough for Tarli, who needed hip surgery when she was five, six, seven and eight.

Leonie continued: ‘Because her legs are so stiff, her hips can get forced out of their sockets. As a result, she’s had to have four hip replacements in as many years.

‘The first time she had surgery, at just five, it was horrendous. Afterwards she had to wear a cast from her ankles to her ribs, and it was excruciating for her.

‘When we heard she needed it a second time, it was so difficult, as she looked to me almost as if to say, ‘Can you say I don’t have to do this?’ But I knew she needed it.

Since her last operation two years ago, she has also been diagnosed with focal epilepsy and autism – the former of which means that she can have up to 10 seizures a day, including in her sleep, where she will suddenly lose focus and be unable to speak or hear

Since her last operation two years ago, she has also been diagnosed with focal epilepsy and autism – the former of which means that she can have up to 10 seizures a day, including in her sleep, where she will suddenly lose focus and be unable to speak or hear

Not breathing at first, the newborn was whisked straight to the neonatal intensive care unit and put on a ventilator - so fragile that her mum only hugged her for the first time when she was eight days old.

Not breathing at first, the newborn was whisked straight to the neonatal intensive care unit and put on a ventilator – so fragile that her mum only hugged her for the first time when she was eight days old.

‘Thankfully, I did some research and agreed with doctors that she’d have a different type of cast the second time around, so the recovery wasn’t as bad, and the third time she had leg splints which was even better.’

Known as femoral osteotomy, the surgery that Tarli has had involves cutting into the hip to align the ball joint with the socket, before either removing a wedge of bone or rotating the bone, depending on the correction required.

Once the bones have lined up in the correct position, they are secured using a metal plate and screws.

Since her last operation two years ago, she has also been diagnosed with focal epilepsy and autism – the former of which means that she can have up to 10 seizures a day, including in her sleep, where she will suddenly lose focus and be unable to speak or hear.

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Despite the daily challenges she faces, she continues to wow both her family and medical professionals with her progress.

As she uses a wheelchair to get around, Leonie said she had accepted she may never see her little girl take her first steps.

At six weeks old, the day before she was discharged, a brain scan revealed that Tarli had sustained some damage, after being deprived of oxygen during her birth

At six weeks old, the day before she was discharged, a brain scan revealed that Tarli had sustained some damage, after being deprived of oxygen during her birth

Touchingly, donations continue to pour in to the GoFundMe page, with well-wishers asking Leonie what else they can do to make her brave little girl's Christmas wishes come true

Touchingly, donations continue to pour in to the GoFundMe page, with well-wishers asking Leonie what else they can do to make her brave little girl’s Christmas wishes come true

But, all that changed within in a matter of days when, moved by her candid Facebook post about her emotional dream, friends, family and the local community rallied round, raising money for an IKAN brace, which is attached to her legs and can be used as either as a standing frame or as a walker.

‘When Tarli tries to bear weight on her legs normally, she collapses,’ said Leonie. ‘She had also never stood up on her own before – but in the suit, she did just that.

‘She also took her first steps. She had to be supported, but it was still such a huge moment. Now, she is raring to go. She knows she needs to work hard, but she just wants to see what else she can do.’

Touchingly, donations continue to pour in to the GoFundMe page, with well-wishers asking Leonie what else they can do to make her brave little girl’s Christmas wishes come true.

Tarli in hospital as a newborn. Leonie was unable to hug her for the first days of her life

 Tarli in hospital as a newborn. Leonie was unable to hug her for the first days of her life

Known as femoral osteotomy, the surgery that Tarli has had involves cutting into the hip to align the ball joint with the socket, before either removing a wedge of bone or rotating the bone, depending on the correction required

Known as femoral osteotomy, the surgery that Tarli has had involves cutting into the hip to align the ball joint with the socket, before either removing a wedge of bone or rotating the bone, depending on the correction required

Tarli and her dad Luke - her family has praised how happy the little girl is

Tarli and her dad Luke – her family has praised how happy the little girl is

She continued: ‘My phone has been going off non-stop and people have been so moved by Tarli.

‘The extra funds are going to go towards private physio and then maybe even a sports wheelchair, to help her move more freely in her dance classes, which she absolutely loves.’

By sharing her story, Leonie wants to thank each and every person that has helped her and also to praise her little girl for her courage.

She concluded: ‘I want to get this story out there with the intention of spreading awareness of celebral palsy and the amazing IKAN brace. If just a few more parents get to see what is possible with this brace, just think how many other dreams can come true.

‘I didn’t feel comfortable asking for help, but I reminded myself it was for Tarli, not me. I never expected to reach the total on the GoFundMe page, but the kindness we have been shown is extraordinary.

‘Tarli never stops smiling, and her favourite thing is to make people laugh. She has blossomed so much from that little baby who was always crying in pain, and it’s wonderful to see.

‘People always tell me I’m strong for what I’m dealing with, but the truth is, that Tarli has taught me to be. She’s the strong one – I’m just following her lead.’