Girl Surprises Mother By Taking First Unaided Steps
Family Credits Hyperbaric Therapy Treatments
UPDATED: 11:46 am CST January 23, 2006
MADISON, Wis. -- An inspirational little girl with a rare neurological disorder took another amazing first on Friday. She surprised her mother by walking on her own for the first time.
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News 3 has been following 6-year-old Gracie Kenitz's progress as she continues to defy the odds.
She did so again when she walked to her mother on Friday at the Dane County Regional Airport. Her mother was returning from a business trip.
Gracie, who will turn 7 years old in March, first defied the odds by living past the age of 2 -- the life expectancy of someone with the rare neurological disorder. She's the only survivor of the five known cases in the world, News 3 reported. The disorder is mitochondrial cytochrome c reductase, which starves brain cells of oxygen. For the first three years of her life, Gracie lived in a vegetative state.
Gracie's mother, Shannon Kenitz, said that she was amazed when she began to crawl -- one of the first signs that Gracie was ready to fight. The young girl was never expected to feed herself, which she did. And then, there was the first time she walked with a walker. She survived for her kindergarten graduation as well.
On Friday, Kenitz was shocked when she saw her daughter greet her and she responded with hugs and kisses. While on the 12-day trip, she was unaware that her daughter had begun to walk unaided.
"It's the first time I've seen it in my life ever, with her just walking like a normal kid," said Shannon Kenitz. "I'm a little bit overwhelmed. I mean, this is something that we have hoped for Grace her whole life!"
Her family said that they believe daily hyperbaric chamber treatments have extended her life and improved its quality. Shannon Kenitz's trip was on behalf of the International Hyperbaric Association, and she spoke to parents about the benefits of hyperbaric treatments for children with so-called hopeless conditions, News 3 reported.
"The fight that we have for hyperbaric therapy is well worth it because it saved her life," said Shannon Kenitz. "And now she's walking."
For Gracie's grandfather, Dave Matthews, this is a surprise that he's glad to finally share with his daughter.
"Things are starting to turn into a windfall for us," Matthews said. "We don't take these firsts for granted."
Friday's surprise is yet another first for a little girl who continues to take life step by step, News 3 reported.