Ten-month-old Olivia of Oakey was born 13 weeks early on Christmas Day in 2017, with parents Tash and Nigel calling her their “Christmas miracle”. Born via an emergency caesarean after Tash suffered a haemorrhage, she weighed just 1100 grams.

Soon after she was born, Olivia was diagnosed with respiratory distress syndrome, as well as ventricular septal defect (VSD) – a common heart defect that presents as a hole in the wall between the heart’s chambers. In the weeks and months that followed, she was also diagnosed with chronic neonatal lung disease, bilateral inguinal hernias, and tracheomalacia, among others.

Olivia’s main medical condition, however, is long-gap tracheo-oesophageal fistula – oesophageal atresia (TOF/OA) which was diagnosed just minutes after her birth. Long-gap TOF/OA is a condition where the mouth and stomach are not connected. She had her first surgery when she was only 24 hours old to insert a gastrostomy tube into her stomach, allowing her to be fed while waiting for her two oesophagus ends to be long enough to join.

This July, Olivia began the fight for her life when she unexpectedly developed sepsis, and consequently suffered multiple organ failure.

“Olivia has handled all of her setbacks in her health journey with such a commanding fighting spirit and determination. She has continued to smile throughout all the ups and downs, and has been my strength throughout it all,” Tash said.

To assist her healing, Olivia has undergone occupational therapy in the PICU and babies ward. Occupational therapists help optimise engagement, development and participation in daily cares (e.g. bathing, treatment regimes, sleeping routines etc) that has been impacted by illness, injury or the hospital environment.

Using play-based activities, her therapists help Olivia reach and grasp objects, explore her fingers and hands, and bring objects to her mouth. This helps with fine motor control, hand-to-eye coordination, along with body awareness and sensation. Her OTs have also instrumental in scar management for Olivia’s limbs.

“Olivia has truly come along in leaps and bounds in the past few months, and while she is still delayed developmentally, she is certainly on the right track.”

“She is such an inquisitive and interactive little girl – it is not at all uncommon to see Olivia keeping a watchful eye on what her doctors and nurses are doing. She’s even recently mastered the art of blowing raspberries, and loves showing everyone her new talent.”