A family got the best Christmas present anyone could wish for when their daughter took her first steps after doctors said she would never walk.
Isabella Lombardo, six, has spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, and has been forced to used a wheelchair or walking frame for most of her short life.
But the little girl, from Sydney, who has already had three surgeries continues to travel overseas in a bid to walk independently.
A few weeks after treatment earlier this year the brave youngster took her first steps unaided.
Isabella Lombardo (second from left with family), 6, has spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, which has left her bound to a wheelchair, a walking frame or requiring assistance to move
Isabella(left) and her mother Libby (second from left) travelled solo to Mexico for stem cell treatment in the middle of the year
Doctors in Australia told Isabella’s mother Libby, 40, and father Joseph, 49, she would never walk by herself.
But the little girl’s parents have always refused to believe this prognosis and this year Ms Lombardo travelled with Libby to Mexico for stem cell treatment in June.
In the weeks after her treatment, before her sixth birthday, Isabella took her ‘first two little steps’ and is now able to stand independently.
‘The treatment has been very successful, we’ve noticed some really good gains and we’re going to look to go back to do more stem cell again this year coming,’ Ms Lombardo told Daily Mail Australia.
The pair also visited Texas in the US where they saw a world renown endurance training coach who helped with intensive therapy – which Isabella has continued since coming home to Sydney.
Ms Lombardo said the month-long trip was really overwhelming for both her and her daughter.
‘Daunting, overwhelming, you’re going to this country where they don’t have English as their first language and you’re leaving behind your husband and baby son,’ she said.
‘It was actually my birthday the day we left, my husbands 50th birthday whilst we were away and my daughter turned six just after her treatment.’
‘The treatment has been very successful, we’ve noticed some really good gains and we’re going to look to go back to do more stem cell again this year coming,’ Ms Lombardo told Daily Mail Australia
Ms Lombardo said her husband Joseph’s birthday was ‘glazed’ over and he didn’t even have a birthday cake as the family had to prioritise what was important.
‘(We’re) travelling all around the world doing different types of treatment,’ Ms Lombardo said.
In December 2016, the Lombardo family raised $100,000 so Isabella could undergo Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SRD) at St Louis Children’s Hospital, in the US.
The surgery, where parts of the abnormal nerves connecting to the spinal cord are cut, allows the muscles to relax.
After the surgery Ms Lombardo told Daily Mail Australia Isabella had new sensations in her body.
‘Her legs are already feeling relaxed. They used to be so tense and when she came out of the operation I could feel they were so relaxed,’ she said.
Ms Lombardo said the treatments have become a hugely costly ordeal for the family
Ms Lombardo, who believes early intervention is key, said the treatments were a phenomenal ordeal on the family and the costs ‘100 per cent come out of the property mortgage’.
‘It’s very difficult when we don’t have the support here in Australia and it comes to a hugely costly ordeal,’ she said.
Ms Lombardo added the overseas travel is an emotional cost too.
Isabella achieved another milestone this year when she started kindergarten at an independent grammar school.
After spending a long time searching for the right school Ms Lombardo said: ‘We found one that is overwhelmingly loving’.
The experience has been ‘so wonderful’ for Isabella who is very social and outgoing.
The determined six-year-old continues to set herself targets ahead of the new year.
‘She’s got that sort of personality where she wants to do everything,’ Ms Lombardo said.
Isabella achieved another milestone this year when she started kindergarten at an independent grammar school
Isabella’s Instagram fame inspired the family to give away 20 special needs bikes (pictured) to children with cerebral palsy for Christmas
Isabella, who has taken 55 independent steps in the pool, wants to take on a water slide next.
Her positive attitude is clear to see on her heartwarming Instagram page, which is followed by more than 13,000 people.
Instagram fame inspired the family to give away 20 special needs bikes to children with cerebral palsy for Christmas and to celebrate the launch of their charity, The Upside foundation, launching in 2019.
‘Because we were posting videos of Isabella riding her bike on Instagram, we would be inundated with people from all around the world saying ”I wish my daughter could ride their bike with their siblings”,’ Ms Lombardo explained.
The bikes which are $2,000 are ‘almost impossible’ to get funding for, according to Ms Lombardo.
‘It’s been a fantastic campaign to raise awareness about special needs bikes,’ she said.
Isabella will also appear in a documentary about her journey to walk which is due to premier early 2019.