Special Needs mum Libby Lombardo shares the extraordinary story of her five-year-old daughter Isabella with The Carousel.
Born with cerebral palsy, Isabella was destined for a life in pain, confined to a wheelchair. The Lombardos had other ideas…
“We have travelled an extraordinary road together that has brought heartbreak – frankly, sometimes I am barely holding on for dear life – but also more joy than I ever thought possible,” she tells The Carousel.
One day when happy, proud new Aussie mum Libby Lombardo was on a routine paediatric check-up with her three-month-old daughter Isabella a midwife expressed concern that she was not lifting her head properly. From that moment everything changed.
After an agonisingly long assessment, the medical profession finally identified Isabella’s condition: a form of cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia, which causes spasticity in the muscles and is caused by lack of oxygen in utero or after birth.
While the other toddlers in their parenting circle started to crawl, walk and run, Isabella was unable to walk or move independently, sit up, turn over in bed, climb trees, play hide-and-seek or do any of the kids’ stuff that any parents would want for their daughter.
Mum Libby went in to ‘mama bear’ mode, unearthing everything she could possibly do to improve Isabella’s existence, from hours of physiotherapy and injections a week to constant positivity and affirmations about how loved and special her daughter is. But Libby also buckled under the strain of keeping the cerebral palsy a secret – until she got ‘outed’ on social media and could no longer hide Isabella’s condition once she passed stroller age.
Once Libby went public she received overwhelming support. After discovering that SDR (Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy) surgery is available in the U.S. and could help her daughter walk unassisted one day – although Australian doctors refuse to perform it on someone Isabella’s age – there was no looking back. The Lombardos campaigned, appearing on Ch9’s the Today Show to discuss the controversial spinal cord surgery and fundraising to make it financially possible.
The operation was a success and Isabella, already a bright and happy child despite being in an electric wheelchair, now has a range of movement that was just not possible before.
Whereas once Libby did everything she could to disguise her daughter’s condition, she is now equally passionate about sharing the world of a special needs mum
“Mummy, mummy!” shouts Isabella one morning as she wakes up screaming with excitement. Libby comes running in to see what is wrong. Isabella exclaims joyously: “Mummy I just dreamt that I can walk!”
It’s an incredible story and one you can follow – check out Isabella’s incredible journey here: