An inspirational Buxton youngster, who was born with a rare medical disorder, has benefitted from the trip of a lifetime thanks to a major community fundraising campaign.
Lola Thomas was born with the tip of her ninth chromosome missing, which has led to medical complications all her life including heart surgery at five-months-old and epilepsy. She is both physically and mentally disabled and is a non-verbal child.
A fundraising campaign - featured in the Advertiser last year - captured the hearts and imagination of the townsfolk, amassing £11,000 towards a rehabilitation trip to Turkey, where she worked with specialists in an attempt to improve her quality of life.
Mum Colleen Thomas said: “It was a dream for so long to get Lola there and see if they can help, and it’s thanks to the wonderful generosity of people that we were able to take her to Turkey and I can already see the improvements it has made to her.”
During the two-week trip, Lola, 10, swam with dolphins to helper reduce her anxiety levels and improve her eye contact.
Away from the water, Lola also underwent intensive physiotherapy to help her posture and muscle strength.
Colleen said: “It was very hard for her during the first few days, but they kept pushing and pushing her which, from a mum’s point of view, was really difficult to watch.
“But once she was more settled she really started taking to the therapies and I was watching her improve in front of my eyes.”
Lola previously did not like being on her front, however after the intense training she was able to lie face down.
Throughout the trip Lola was placing her head on the dolphin’s head, and by the end she was looking directly at the dolphins.
Colleen said: “The specialists say it can take up to 12 weeks to see the full benefits of the therapies, but I can already see she has changed.
“Since we landed back at the weekend we have been continuing the techniques and she is making eye contact with me which is brilliant.
“Lola suffers with terrible anxiety issues but she is already much calmer and making good choices.”
Colleen now vows to do all she can to help Lola improve further.
The mum-of-two said: “For a long time if Lola doesn’t want to do something I haven’t forced the issue, but seeing what she is capable of has made me realise we have been holding her back.”