Some children have to endure more pain than most adults do in a lifetime, and they always seem to handle it with such inspiring bravery and positivity.
Seven-year-old Aynslie can be seen, in emotional footage posted by her mum, completing a 5km run in West Palm Beach with an external metal fixator weighing over six pounds attached to her leg.
Aynslie was born with a congenital condition called fibular hemimelia, meaning she is completely missing the fibula bone in her lower right leg and, as a result, also only has four toes on her right foot and her right leg is shorter than her left because the tibia bone does not grow at the same rate as her ‘normal’ leg.
Here is the amazing moment Aynslie makes it over the finish line:
Speaking to UNILAD about Aynslie’s birth, her mum Heathyr explained:
I found out that she would have this condition when I was about 23 weeks pregnant. As such, I was able to do some research and had set up an appointment with Boston Children’s Hospital to go over our options for care after birth and going forward.
If we did nothing, Aynslie’s ankle would not have the support it needs in order to walk due to the missing fibula bone.
Upon meeting with a doctor at the hospital, we were urged to consider amputation of the lower portion of the leg and a prosthetic going forward.
Heathyr did not want Aynslie’s leg to be amputated and researched other options leading her to find an orthopaedic surgeon in Florida who works to reconstruct and save limbs.
Aynslie’s first surgery took place when she was just 18 months old, in January of 2013, to both lengthen the tibia bone as well as stabilise her ankle.
The ‘external fixator’ that can be seen on Aynslie’s leg during the run is attached through the bone and skin in order to hold the broken tibia bone in place so it can lengthen.
Talking about how she felt when Aynslie finished the race, Heathyr said:
As Aynslie crossed the finish line and was being cheered on by the crowed I felt extremely proud, as any parent would.I was also amazed, as I always am, by her strength and determination and happy that the institute hosts an event to encourage kids to be active despite the physical struggles they’re going through.
Explaining the surgeries Aynslie has to endure, Heathyr said:
Because the growth in Aynslie’s right leg does not keep up with the normal growth rate of her left leg multiple surgeries are required until adulthood.
Aynslie’s second surgery was in October, 2017. The process of breaking the tibia bone, attaching the external fixator and creating a chart to follow to create length was repeated.
The first time Aynslie had surgery in 2013 she gained about 5cm from the lengthening process. This time she was able to get a little over 6cm in length.
Aynslie still currently has a discrepancy between her legs and has to get a lift built into her shoes which is currently at one inch.
The resilient seven-year-old doesn’t let her disability stop her from taking part in all the sports she enjoys, completing an impressive 5K run, and also playing baseball, going swimming, and frolicking in the snow.
Talking about Aynslie’s future, Heathyr said:
She has plans to return to playing hockey this fall as well as joining a swim team and going skiing.
She is also a yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do and enjoys art, winter sports, the beach and Disney Princesses.
Heathyr told us about some of the most emotionally testing parts of Aynslie’s surgery:
Because the fixator is attached through the bone, there are open wounds on the leg all of the time. This makes it very open to infection. At one point we had to visit a surgeon in New Hampshire, in order to have an infected wire removed.
One of the worst parts of having a child go through a surgery is feeling completely helpless. One of Aynslie’s infections was bad enough that we ended up staying in the hospital for a few nights.
Knowing that your child is going through trauma or experiencing pain and not being able to do anything about it is one of the worst feelings I have ever had to face. If I could, I’d trade places with her.
Though Aynslie patience and resilience is inspiring she also experiences frustration with her disability, like when she was left out of skiing, hockey, and a number of her other favourite activities because of the fixator.
Heathyr told us that ‘she also felt as though she stuck out among her peers at times and did not want to be ‘different’.
When Aynslie is asked what happened to her leg she always replies simply, saying ‘I had a surgery’. Her proud mum describes her daughter as ‘so smart, funny, beautiful and brave’,
Talking about the emotional journey they’ve been on, Heathyr explained:
Throughout this entire process we have cried, complained, had hope, been tired and felt joy.
It has been an emotional, psychological and financial rollercoaster and sometimes it felt as though it would never end.
Aynslie, however, was consistent through the entire thing. She always had a smile on her face, powered through her fear, and stayed strong.
Due to all the forward planning and surgeries, as an adult, Aynslie will not have a length discrepancy at all.
Keep on smashing your goals Aynslie!