LITTLE battler Sophie Burns meets ill-health head-on every day – and deserves to have her courage recognised, say her proud parents.
The four-year-old was born with a condition called Goldenhar syndrome, a rare congenital defect which results in the incomplete development of the ears, nose, soft palate, lips and jaw bone.
Sophie, who lives with her mum, Stacey Nellist, 24, dad Neil Burns, 26, and two-year-old brother Ben in Mountbatten Avenue, Hebburn, has a curved spine, uses two hearing aids, is unable to speak, and has a short jaw.
The youngster has already been through a number of operations and procedures in her short life, including having ribs removed to build her jaw, having a tracheostomy fitted to help her breathe, and a tube fitted in her tummy to feed through.
But her proud family say she is “the happiest little girl” they’ve ever met.
Her grandmother, Linda Burns, has nominated Sophie for the Child Of Courage honour in the Pride Of South Tyneside awards.
She said: “Sophie is the happiest little girl I know and brings a smile to all who know her – and the ones that don’t. She likes nothing better than running around the garden with her brother and boisterous cousins.
“Fragile doesn’t appear in her vocabulary. A very inspirational child who, I believe, deserves recognition for her courage and contentment despite what she has had to face.”
Stacey, who is studying literacy and maths at the Early Learning Centre in Hebburn, where Sophie goes to nursery, said: “Sophie has always just been really happy.
“I think it’s because we’ve always involved her in everything and we’ve never wanted her to feel like she was any different to other children.
“Of course she understands that everyone is special in their own way, but we never wanted her to feel like she was really different.
“She’s doing great at nursery and she’s really settled in.
“Nothing ever seems to affect her, she’s just so happy.
“Even when she’s had operations, she’s up straight away and wanting to run around and play.”
When Sophie was born she had skin tags on her face and a small jaw, and because her hearing is impaired, she communicates using British Sign Language.
Stacey added: “As a family, everyone is really proud of her – she’s such an inspiration.
“We knew that Sophie had a curve in her spine before she was born, but didn’t know she would be born with this condition.
“It made us grow up really fast – but we wouldn’t change her for the world.”