This is brave little Ava Bainbridge who is taking her first steps - thanks to a very special pair of slippers.
Ava lost her toes and part of both her feet when she battled against the life-threatening bug meningitis
aged just 14 months.
Now experts have created the world's first pair of prosthetic
slippers - which come complete with a set of toes for her to wear!
It has never been done before - but experts at Dorset Orthopaedic have created the tiny unique slippers to help Ava walk again
She was fitted with the slippers this week - and has now taken her first steps.
"It has never been done before and they have been designed especially for Ava," says Ava's delighted mum Gemma Clay, 27, an administration assistant.
"She is thrilled with them as now she can wear normal shoes again. And it has helped her to walk again properly too. It was amazing when we put them on for the first time and she took her first steps."
Ava, two, was struck down with the deadly meningitis
bug in January last year, aged 14 months.
Gemma, who lives with partner Ken Bainbridge, 32, a warehouse operator, in Newcastle, says: "She woke up during the night and was shivering with a high temperature. We didn't think it was serious but we decided to take her down to the hospital to get her checked out.
We never imagined it could be anything like meningitis.
The couple took Ava to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Nottingham where doctors initially thought she had swine flu.
She was about to be sent home, when she fell asleep and so stayed at the hospital.
A doctor came in and noticed that her heart rate was elevated. Just twenty minutes later, Gemma noticed a few spots appearing on her.
"I really panicked when I saw the spots. I called the doctor and they came rushing in. They diagnosed her with meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia
and within half an hour she was on a ventilator fighting for her life.
Our whole world just fell apart, we didn't know whether she would survive. The doctors said she could die.
"She was transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary and as she was put into the ambulance I gave her a kiss, and I didn't know whether I was going to see her again. "The purple rash had quickly spread all over her body within a matter of minutes."
Ava held on for the next 25 hours, and after three days her toes went black. She had drugs used to fight frost bite which managed to save her fingers.
"She was so strong she amazed all the doctors with how hard she fought to stay alive," says Gemma.
"I asked the doctors when her toes went black if she was going to lose them and they told me that yes she was. But it didn't matter, at least she was still alive. I told them to do what they needed to do, to save her."
After 10 days Ava was strong enough to come off the ventilator and after two weeks she was allowed to go home. Three weeks later she had an operation to remove her toes and half of each foot that had been damaged by the disease.
After another two weeks she was allowed home, and doctors gave Gemma foam blocks to put into Ava's shoes to help her learn to walk again, but they were uncomfortable.
Then experts at Dorset Orthopaedic came up with an idea which had never been done before. They made a tiny pair of prosthetic slippers for Ava which had toes on the end.
"It was such a marvellous idea. I didn't want Ava to be bullied at school for having her toes missing," explains Gemma. "Whenever I took her swimming people would stare at her and I wanted her to be able to wear normal shoes."
Ava was fitted with the slippers this week and has just taken her first steps.
"She loves the new slippers. She thinks that we have bought her some new toes back from a shop," says Gemma.
She knows that she wears her new toes during the day and takes them off for night and she thinks that's great. It has meant now that she can wear normal shoes, which is fantastic. She loves shoes too, she's a real little Imelda Marcos.
"She's just taken her first steps and she's determined to walk everywhere she can. She doesn't want to go in the buggy, and instead she asks to walk. We are so proud of her."
A spokesman for Dorset Orthopaedic
said: "This is the first time we have ever made these silicone slippers for someone so young. It was quite difficult to cast her feet as they were so tiny. They are build up at the end so she can wear them comfortably. They look extremely realistic and they look great."
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