Photo gallery: Another big step forward for little Angelina Mills with her battle against rare condition
- Credit: Archant
A parents' dream has come true after their daughter, who could not play on her own at nursery two years ago because of a rare neurological condition, will be progressing to primary school in the New Year. Reporter Sophie Wyllie met with the family of four-year-old Angelina Mills on what was her emotional last day at nursery.
Angelina Mills is running around the sandpit at Strawberry Patch Nursery in Hempstead.
She is laughing, smiling, tackling the wooden obstacle course and riding the toy cars - just like all the other youngsters - before starting at Sheringham Primary School on January 7.
But despite her 'bubbly and adorable' personality, a few years ago she did not laugh, giggle or want for anything, according to her mother.
Angelina, from Gresham, was diagnosed with Sturge-Weber Syndrome at 18 weeks old.
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'She has succeeded more than we could have imagined. Our expectations of Angelina have grown tenfold. I could not be happier or prouder as a father,' said her father Stephen Mills, 47, from Pegg Road, Sheringham.
The syndrome left her with a range of problems including epilepsy, bodily weakness, learning delay and a port wine stain on her face.
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In June 2010 the youngster underwent successful pioneering surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to stop the epilectic seizures in an operation which involved disconnecting the outer layer of the affected right half of her brain.
The operation left her with a limp left side but despite having problems with balance, eyesight and speech, she has made good progress.
About two weeks ago she said 'I love you daddy' for the first time.
Her mother, Lisa Massingham, 38, from Castle Close, Gresham, said: 'When she started at Strawberry Patch I could not let her walk from the gate to the door on her own. No-one could leave her side. She didn't have any awareness, co-ordination or social skills. Now her social skills have come on leaps and bounds. I feel she is leaving nursery with more independence skills than most children do.'
The four-year-old can now walk around the sandpit along wooden railway sleepers using posts as a guide and walk unaided.
Her mother, a trustee of the Sturge Weber UK charity, added: 'Her personality is fantastic. She has got so much determination. When I look at her future now it does not seem as bleak as it used to be before the operation. I can see her with great potential in life and she won't let anything stop her.'
Angelina has occupational therapy and physiotherapy, will have speech and language therapy at Sheringham primary and has laser treatment at GOSH every six months on her port wine stain.
She will wear a splint on her left leg until she is 16-year because her ankle does not have a full range of movement.
Angelina has not had any 'life-threatening' epilectic seizures since her operation.
Because of the surgery Angelina will never have full mobility and has lost vision from the left side of both eyes as well as fine motor skills in her left hand - which she calls her 'magic hand'.
'She is walking around with half a brain, which is unbelievable. I'm going to miss Strawberry Patch and I know Angelina will,' Ms Massingham added.
Angelina's mother, who has two sons Luca, 13, and Stefan, 11, said the syndrome has made life difficult for her boys.
Linda Wells, special educational needs co-ordinator, at Strawberry Patch said: 'She is a delight. All the staff will miss her and it is emotional to say goodbye but I feel very positive about her and feel she is ready for school. She is going to blossom.'
While at Sheringham Primary School the four-year-old will have one-to-one support and will be able to use the hydrotherapy pool at Sheringham Woodfields School.
As well as playing outside, one of Angelina's favourite activities is working with numbers.
Her father added: 'If she progresses as fast as she has over the past four years who knows what she will achieve. We couldn't be more thankful for the staff at Strawberry Patch and Linda for their work.
'Angelina brings light into everyone's life. You get strength from her and she has changed me as a person. Angelina has given us love and happiness.'
For more information about Sturge Weber UK visit www.sturgeweber.org.uk.