My little girl lost her feet…but she can cartwheel!

So inspiring!

Niki Noh, 50, never imagined an earache could turn her girl’s world upside down.

Here, she shares the story in her own words.

Tucking into the food at a Chinese restaurant, I was so pleased to have my family back together again.

For the past week, my kids, Jade, then 13, Kingsley, eight, and Tinsley, six, had been battling the flu and were finally on the mend.


So when my partner, Scott, 44, arrived home from working away on a fishing trawler, we jumped at the chance to get out of our house in Port Lincoln, SA, to spend quality time together.

As we were heading out the door to leave though, Tinsley complained that she had an earache.

Taking her to the GP the next day, he confirmed she had an infection and sent us home with some ear drops.

‘If it’s not better by Wednesday, come back and I’ll give you a prescription for antibiotics,’ he said.

But the following day, poor Tinsley was feeling worse.

Instinctively placing my hand on her forehead, it was warm to touch, so I gave her some Nurofen to help reduce her fever.

‘I feel like I’m dying,’ she cried to me.

‘Don’t be silly,’ I replied, leaving her to rest.

When I went to check on her at 4am the next morning, she could barely keep her eyes open.

I rushed her straight to hospital, as Scott was preparing to head back to work the next day.

‘Everything will be fine,’ I told him, promising to call him as soon as I had anything to update him on.

But by the time we arrived at Port Lincoln Hospital, Tinsley was non-responsive and severely dehydrated, so doctors had to inject fluids and antibiotics directly into the marrow of her tibia.

Scott and Tinsley
Scott and Tinsley

As medical staff swarmed around my little girl, time seemed to rush past in a blur.

Though I could hear them talking, I couldn’t keep up with what they were saying.

Within 45 minutes of being admitted, we were being prepared to be flown to the Women and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide by the Royal Flying Doctor Service where they were better equipped to deal with Tinsley’s worsening state.

During the flight, I broke down. As her mum, it was my job to make her feel better, but I didn’t even know what was wrong with my sweet little daughter.

Once at the hospital, I finally learned just how serious things were.

‘We believe she has sepsis, her doctor revealed, adding it was her body’s way of trying to fight her ear infection.

She’d need to be placed in an induced coma.

Shocked, I’d always assumed that sepsis was something that affected men in the war.

Now, I was being told that my little girl was fighting for her life.

If only I’d taken her pleas seriously, I wept.

Phoning Scott who was now at sea, I had to deliver the hardest news of my life.

‘You need to come home,’ I sobbed. ‘She might not make it.’

Devastated, he was already 36 hours away, so he made his way back to us as fast as he could. By the time he arrived two days later, Tinsley’s fingers and feet had started to turn black.

If she survived, doctors revealed they’d need to amputate her limbs.

Though I was terrified, I refused to believe my girl’s time was up.

Tinsley on a horse
My girl won’t let anything hold her down

‘You’ll be okay,’ I whispered to her.

She’d only started school five months earlier, but now her whole life was going to be turned upside down.

Will she still be able to ride her bike and run around with her older siblings if she pulls through? I wondered.

Thankfully, over the next two weeks, Tinsley’s vitals improved, so doctors brought her out of the coma.

Though she was initially confused about what had happened to her, the doctor gently explained that to get rid of the disease in her body, they’d have to remove her feet, the fingers on her left hand and the tip of her ring finger on her right hand.

Wise beyond her years, she understood what had to be done and didn’t bat an eyelid at the news.

Instead, she found it funny to scare staff with her blackened hand.

Around three weeks after being admitted, the surgery was completed.

‘The ends of my legs look like little chicken kiev balls,’ she joked afterwards.

Always one to roll with the punches, I was glad to see my girl was back to her cheeky self.

Even the staff who  helped to take care of her had started to call her ‘ferociously fabulous’.

Tinsley in her martial arts class
Tinsley in her martial arts class

Discharged two months later, Tinsley was fitted with prosthetics, but she found them uncomfortable and preferred to get around on the ends of her legs instead.

So we had special leather boots made for her to help protect her skin.

When she returned to school in September, I was concerned about what the other kids might say.

Thankfully, volunteers from Limbs 4 Life came to speak to the students about Tinsley’s condition.

‘Just because we don’t have limbs, doesn’t mean we are less,’ they told the kids.

Incredibly, she was doing cartwheels and playing chase with her friends in no time.

Now, more than two years on from the surgery, Tinsley refuses to let the ordeal define her.

Aged eight, she’s incredibly headstrong and never shies away from a challenge.

If she’s not racing around on her quad bike, she’s riding horses or learning how to kick and block attacks at her martial arts class.

‘I’m not disabled. I’m just like everyone else,’ she says.

I’m confident that no matter what life throws her way, there’s nothing she won’t be able to overcome.

She’ll forever be ferociously fabulous! 

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