Meet the brave five-year-old whose spine has grown OUTSIDE her body – leaving her needing 21 operations – but she’s beaten the odds to survive and head to school.
Little Kaidence Tate endured seven operations in the last year alone – but has defied medics predictions and returned to school this month.
The little girl has battled extreme health complications since being born with the debilitating spine condition spina bifida in December 2014.
The youngster was operated on at just one-hour-old after medics discovered a huge lesion where her ‘withered’ spine was – and found it growing outside her flesh.
Kaidence’s incredibly rare form of spina bifida occurred when a large lesion on her back opened up in the womb exposing the spinal cord.
This left medics no choice but to perform the dangerous eight hour operation to remove the lesion and reconstruct her back at just hours old.
Kaidence has overcome many health scares in her short life, but it wasn’t until 2020 that her parents believed they might ‘actually lose her’.
The schoolgirl – who is paralysed from her chest cavity down – has nearly died multiple times this year as doctors at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, struggled to manage her complicated condition.
The five-year-old – whose mum, Paula Tate, 31, describes her as ‘the strongest girl I know’ – has now beaten all the odds and started back at her special needs school.
Mum-of-four, Paula, from Newtownabby, Belfast, Northern Ireland, said: ”2020 has really chewed up Kaidence and spat her out again.
”She’s never had an easy time but this year really has been the worst.
”She’s had seven brain surgeries this year and has almost died multiple times.
”Thankfully doctors have fought to save her life and over lockdown the slow pace of life meant she could actually rest and relax properly.
”I’m so proud of her- the fact she’s managed to go back to school and has never stopped smiling or being her cheeky self, she just amazes me.”
Stay at home mum, Paula and husband Barrie, 39, a builder, suffered four miscarriages before finally becoming pregnant with Kaidence in June 2014.
It was at their 20 week scan that medics broke the news that their daughter would be severely disabled after diagnosing her with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
Spina bifida with hydrocephalus is a condition that develops in unborn babies which affects the spinal cord and prevents normal drainage of fluid on the brain.
Paula said: ”It was incredibly stressful. – I’d never heard of spina bifida before.
”I never cared if she would be able to walk I just wanted to know that she was breathing, that there was a heartbeat.”
After refusing multiple terminations, Kaidence was born by planned cesarean on 8th December 2014 at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.
Due to the size of her spinal lesion, the newborn was placed straight into a sterile bag ‘up to her neck’ before medics whisked her off for life-saving surgery.
The tot survived and had brain surgery at just ten days old.
For the first 16 months of her life Kaidence was in and out of hospital with a variety of spina bifida-related issues including kidney failure, paralysis and fluid on the brain.
But despite everything Kaidence has shocked her family to become an ambassador for her condition – even turning her hand to modelling and winning a host of prizes for bravery.
At just 18 months she was one of the youngest children in the country to use a wheelchair – whilst still using her dummy.
But in early 2020 the young girl suffered severe complications after surgery to remove fluid on her brain.
Paula explained: ”This year has been horrific.
”We’ve prepared to say goodbye to her multiple times but she just keeps fighting back.
”The shunt that surgeons put in place in her brain became blocked and the procedure to unblock it caused other complications.
”Kaidence had a coma like seizure which left her body close to shutting down.
”She’s had seven operations in 2020 alone – with Covid it’s been so hard on her, and us all.
”In just five years she’s had over 21 surgeries.
”Thankfully she’s doing really well at the minute.
”We couldn’t believe she was ready to go back to school.
”She’s loving being back.
”She just amazes us everyday.
”She refuses to let spina bifida define her, in fact if anything, she defines spina bifida!”