Life-changing surgery a success for young Australian girl

Family spent 3 months in West Palm Beach

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Don't let the bulky frame on her leg fool you, 18-month-old Demi Reilly is mobile. 

"When you compare to where we started to now, it's amazing. We've almost got her walking, she's gone from not being able to do that, to standing up by herself," says Demi's mother, Sandy.

Demi and her parents took the 10,000-mile trip from Palm Beach, Australia to West Palm Beach for life-changing surgery in August. The now 18-month-old girl was born with fibular hemimelia, which causes one leg to grow faster. Left untreated, one of her legs could grow six inches longer than the other.

The operation involved breaking Demi's leg to allow it to grow back together, eventually adding two and a half inches to her leg. The surgery was a success.

"Her leg is lengthened, it's gotten straighter, she's walking around perusing the furniture, she's doing great," says Dr. Dror Paley, the St. Mary's Medical Center Surgeon who performed the operation.

"She's done remarkable considering the amount of surgery on her leg," says Simon Reilly, Demi's dad.

Demi got used to the three-pound frame on her leg, which is literally holding her bones so they can strengthen as they grow together. Demi will probably not remember the surgery, or the pain associated with it. She won't need more surgery until she is eight years old.

She's received 10 weeks of leg therapy, which kept the family in South Florida. This week they're headed back to Australia. Leaving is bittersweet. Simon feels indebted to fellow firefighters in Palm Beach County who helped make their three month stay possible.

"The people in the fire deptartment, their support network has made the whole journey worth every moment. We're not going to say goodbye, we're gonna say see you later," says Simon Reilly.

Print this article Back to Top