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"No limits" for 9-year-old Amelia after cerebral palsy treatment at Children's Health

North Texas 9-year-old girl with cerebral palsy defies the odds
North Texas 9-year-old girl with cerebral palsy defies the odds 02:12

NORTH TEXAS — Just watching 9-year-old Amelia van der Merwe run and play you'd never know that at 22 months old she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. 

"It's kind of exciting the way that I can, like just run and jump. It just makes me feel kind of special when I do that some days," said Amelia van der Merwe.

She was born two months early and had to have heart surgery. But soon after her parents realized something was wrong. 

"She started not making the typical milestones of children, you know, not crawling when she should," said Amelia's mother, Robin van der Merwe.

That's when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy by doctors at Children's Health.

"When they tell you your child has spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy, it's a lot to take in at one time because the first thing you start to think about is what does that mean for their future? You know, what does that look like? What is she going to be able to do or what is she not going to be able to do?," said Robin van der Merwe.

Doctors painted a picture of what her life might be like.

"She said, well, she'll probably always be a little clumsy, meaning that her balance would not be very good. She wouldn't be able to play team sports, just because she would not have that same physical capability as other children," said Robin van der Merwe.

Amelia's parents credit her team of doctors at Children's Health who immediately stepped in to rewrite Amelia's future. She was put in leg braces before she turned two and has had surgery on her left leg, injections and intensive therapy to strengthen her muscles. 

"There were just never any limitations. There wasn't anyone who said, this is what it's going to look like forever. It was 'we're going to make her the very best that we can'," said Robin van der Merwe.

Today there are no limits to what she can do. Her favorite hobby is kicking a soccer ball.

"I actually kind of like that because even little kids like me can do big things," said Amelia.

Her parents hope her story inspires other parents whose children are dealing with difficult medical diagnoses.

"If I knew then what I know right now, I wouldn't have felt nearly as bad as I did. You know, ten years ago, because I would know that the outcome would be so fantastic," said Robin van der Merwe. "It's been a lot but the result is a girl who's free to choose to do anything she wants to do."

Amelia's long and continuing journey has inspired her too.

"I have a lot of things I want to be when I grow up, but the one thing that I really want to be is a doctor," said Amelia. "These doctors I've been meeting over the years, they've inspired me when I when I keep seeing them taking care of kids, I thought to myself, I want to do the same thing. I want to help kids to do things that they couldn't do. I want to make their dream come true."

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