Lydia’s journey: A little Kiwi girl’s mission to put two feet on the ground

An Auckland family that uprooted their life in New Zealand in a bid to get life-changing surgery for their little girl in the US are celebrating an important milestone.

Four-year-old Lydia Golding was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD), which affects the pelvis and hip bone, and results in a shortened leg.

But since undergoing surgery and beginning the leg lengthening process in the US, Lydia’s leg has gained 8cm in length, something mother Lauren Golding called “a miracle”.

“It’s amazing … It’s an absolute miracle.”

This milestone has been years in the making – and the journey to get there has been hard, Lauren said.

Lauren and her two daughters relocated to Florida in November last year so Lydia could get reconstructive hip surgery that wasn’t available in New Zealand.

A lengthening device was attached to Lydia’s leg during the hip surgery, which extends the bone .75mm every day.

The bone has been cut and the external apparatus is used to pull the bone apart and extend it gradually.

While Lauren, Lydia and baby sister Rose now live in Florida where Lydia’s surgeon is, Lauren’s husband Hamish is on the other side of the world back in New Zealand.

He was able to spend eight weeks with the family in Florida initially, but had to return home for work.

“I have very up and down days,” Lauren said.

“Most of the time I’m pretty good. It was our wedding anniversary today so I’ve been in tears most of the day.”

The couple of 12 years couldn’t celebrate over the phone due to the time difference.

The family won’t be reunited again until October this year, when Lauren hopes to be able to return to New Zealand with Lydia and baby sister Rose.

“It’s [hard] when the milestones hit. [Lydia’s] birthday is coming up on Wednesday, and it’s like, this sucks. It’s just me, Lydia and Rose and this sucks. It’s hard. It’s really hard.”

Lauren didn’t know anyone in Florida. No friends. No family. She’s since become close with a few people, but other than that, she’s on her own.

But the family are motivated by their ultimate goal – to help Lydia put two feet evenly on the ground.

She will be between 13-16 years old when that happens.

Before then, Lydia will need up to four more lengthening surgeries, hundreds of physio sessions and possibly a growth plate put on her other leg.

“She’s just amazing, she never complains,” Lauren said about Lydia.

“Yes, she whinges and whines when we do her physio which is to be expected, I’m sure it bloody hurts. She never complains in between. All day everyday it is ‘I love you Mum, I love you Mum, you made my leg longer. Thanks Mum.'”

Lydia has physio sessions three times a day, seven days a week. Two of them are done at a Florida clinic while Lauren does the rest.

“She lights up any room she walks into. Everyone here just loves her. She just melts our hearts. “

Lydia and baby sister Rose are inseparable, Lauren said.

“Every morning without fail they hug each other. I’ll go and have a shower and come back and they are cuddled up on the couch watching a movie.”

Lauren, Lydia and Rose will stay in Florida until the external fixator can be removed from Lydia’s leg – a day Lauren can not wait for.

All she wants to do is be able to hold her baby girl.

“I can’t hold my child properly. She has this massive metal thing on her leg. She can’t sit properly. I can’t carry her properly. I can’t cuddle her properly.

“Of course I can give her ‘cuddles’ but I can’t hop into bed and spoon her and cuddle her. There’s none of that. It’s just awkward. I cannot wait for it come off and hold my baby without this big thing on her.”

The Auckland family need hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for Lydia’s surgeries and treatments.

More than $50,000 has been donated to the family’s Givealittle page so far, but they are far from the $500,000 they need to cover costs.

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