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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Special pony gets family through the toughest of times

ABOVE: Lachie and Milla Allen and Pixie on their way to Lachie’s first blue ribbon. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG

LACHIE Allen is just four and his big sister Milla is six.

When Mila led Lachie to a win on the little white pony Pixie at the recent Equestrian Festival at Warragul, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

Pony-mad Milla started riding Pixie when she was two.

The pony arrived five days after her Lachie was born. When he was a few weeks old the family realised there was something wrong.

“He couldn’t breathe properly he couldn’t swallow he was very noisy he sounded like a tractor and he cried and cried,” mum Jess Allen said.

“To this day I thank Pixie for saving my beautiful daughter and keeping her distracted and loved while I was away caring for Lachie.

“Pixie is the most delightful little pony who is so forgiving, patient and has kept Milla safe.”

Lachie’s journey has been a long and very difficult one for a tiny child.

He went back and forth to the doctors with no improvement, so the family took him to the Royal Childrens Hospital.

“We stayed for a really long time,” Jess said. “Lachie was diagnosed with severe obstructive apnoea and at 13 weeks old he had his tonsils and adenoids removed and airway surgery. He stayed in ICU on a ventilator for a month and then we moved to the wards for the following months.”

It was a really hard time for the family. Lachie was eventually discharged but as the weeks went by he still could not use his arms to touch objects, he didn’t follow things with his eyes and when they laid him on the floor he would not move.

He went back to the Royal Children’s Hospital for MRIs and other investigations. They discovered he had a Chiari malformation of his brain that was compressing his spinal cord causing him to experience difficulty breathing and swallowing, as well as epilepsy and poor tone. As a result, he was suffering immense pain. “New Year’s Eve 2019, just after his first birthday, he underwent brain surgery,” Jess said.

“He had the base of his skull removed, a shunt and dural sheath.

“We spent the best part of 12 months in hospital (and) relocated as a family to the Ronald McDonald house. "At two, Lachie still couldn’t walk, talk, eat on his own, breath on his own or even sit.

“We finally came home and ever since he has worked so very hard with his physio and occupational therapy team.”

Jess said the saving grace for the family during this time was Pixie.

“I would often take Lachie out there and he began moving his arms and following her with his eyes,” she said.

“Milla had such a passion for horses that she ended up getting a bigger pony to ride but would spend so much time helping Lachie touch the ponies, sitting with him and telling him all about them and how to care for them.

“As a mum my heart was so full. Milla is the most compassionate, patient and caring sister who has continuously encouraged her little brother.

“Throughout our hospital journey with Lachie it was so important Milla was involved with everything and looking back now I’m so glad we did that. It helped give her a good understanding of what was happening.”

ABOVE: Milla has graduated to a bigger pony now. Picture: ONE-EYED FROG

Lachie has undergone 14 surgeries in four years and has now come out of a walker.

His speech has improved and although the family still have so many challenges on a daily basis with his chronic pain, migraines, seizures, difficulty swallowing and fatigue, he continues to work really hard.

“His often-stated wish was to win a ribbon just like his big sister, so Milla, at age six, took that very seriously, helping with his physio and occupational therapy to build Lachie’s core strength,” Jess said.

“He suffers with hypotonia so something as simple as sitting causes him a great deal of discomfort and takes a lot of effort.

“Milla asked me if Lachie could ride at (the Equestrian Festival at) Farmworld with her. At first I was hesitant because he had only sat on the horses for short periods of time and he had only been lead around once.

“Just before entries closed, I thought let’s do it if it means so much to both of them.”

Milla turned her focus from competing herself to helping her brother.

“As the days led up they were both so excited,” Jess said.

“We brought Lachie his own boots and show jacket just like his sister. His face lit up like Christmas morning.

“On the day Milla kept saying how proud of Lachie she was and kept reminding him to sit straight like a soldier, point his toes to the stars and look up.

“She led him around the ring with the biggest smile. I was in floods of tears it was such a special moment in our world knowing that his little dream came true and his big sister helped make that happen. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

“Our ponies saved us as a family in more ways than one – they gave us the will to keep fighting and striving for those goals.”

ABOVE: Lachie and Milla Allen and their champion ponies.

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