Doctors told Lexie Eveleigh’s parents she might never walk.
A few weeks ago, the three-year-old took her first steps unassisted.
Lexie is the only reported person in the world with the combination of two rare chromosome abnormalities – 1P36.33 micro-deletion syndrome and 16P13.3 micro-duplication syndrome.
“She’s got a tiny piece missing from her first chromosome and an extra piece of 16 has been added to the top of the broken part,” Lexie’s mother, Kerrie Eveleigh, said.
The diagnosis was made when Lexie was eight weeks old.
Though doctors doubted the infant would grow to walk, Kerrie said she always knew Lexie would.
“It’s mother’s instinct – I just knew,” she said.
“I said I was going to have her walking by three and she was walking, in that walker, by three.
“But to see it – it’s just amazing.”
The Bendigo community was instrumental in supporting Lexie to take her first steps, raising the funds needed to buy a specialised walking frame.
Before then, Lexie was limited to shuffling around on her back.
Kerrie said the walker helped Lexie gain the strength and confidence she needed to take her first few steps independently.
Since she got her first walker, last year, Lexie has progressed to using a walking frame, then a harness.
“She’s been walking on her knees probably since the start of the year,” Kerrie said.
As her eldest daughter’s mobility increased, Kerrie watched and waited for the day Lexi took her first steps unassisted.
She had her phone at the ready when it happened.
“When I let go I quickly hit record and I got that first video of her walking, which is amazing because Daniel was at work that day,” Kerrie said.
“He got to see her first steps.”
Daniel Eveleigh, Lexie’s father, was overjoyed.
“I was running around work showing all the boys the video,” he said.
These days, Lexie’s preferred walking support is an adult holding her hand.
“She’s just amazing,” Kerrie said.
“She’ll scream at me all the time because she just wants someone to hold her hand to let her walk.”
In addition to walking, the toddler is becoming increasingly vocal.
“The speech therapist said we walk before we talk, and now that she’s walking there’s a huge chance she’s going to be starting to do a lot more talking and communication,” Kerrie said.
“We were not sure if she’d ever talk and we’re hearing words like Mum… all these new sounds.”
Becoming an older sister has also helped Lexie grow, Daniel said.
He said Lexie and her little sister Hattie often copied each other.
“They’ve definitely been good for each other,” Daniel said.
The next step in building Lexie’s mobility and independence is a mobility smart pup.
“When Lexie goes into big playgrounds, she gets a lot of anxiety,” Kerrie said.
“It can be quite a lot for her to process.”
The pup will be able to alert Kerrie to when Lexie is in danger and help keep the toddler calm during situations she finds stressful.
“It’ll give her that independence away from me, without having to have a mother hover over her 24-7,” Kerrie said.
“Like in a playground, a child of her age is sliding down a slide on their own and running around.
“But with Lexie, she still needs me to be there with her.
“For us to be able to provide her with a smart pup, we need $20,000.”
The Kiwanis Club of Bendigo and It’s Her Gym have banded together to form a committee to help raise the funds needed for a smart pup.
“We are inviting any business that wants to get involved to get in touch with Brian Pedretti [of Kiwanis] and myself,” Sue Walton, of It’s Her Gym, said.
She said $20,000 might sounds like a lot.
“But if we get the right people together, it’s quite achievable, quite quickly,’ Sue said.
Kiwanis helped with the purchase of the walker and a play gym shaped like a kombi van at the Eveleigh house.
Helping children is at the heart of the volunteer organisation’s mission.