Rocky's miracle girl defies medical odds
SOPHIE Stephenson is an eight year old girl with a "fire in her belly".
Even though she has endured more than what most people will ever experience, the Rockhampton girl's passion for life is unstoppable.
Watching her joy as she competes in cheerleading competitions, Sophie's mum Mel Nelson finds it hard to believe it's the same girl she was told a few years ago would be wheelchair bound.
Sophie has endured three open heart, two brain and numerous other operations in her short life so far.
Mel has been told Sophie's congenital condition is incurable and she will now have to wait until she is 18 to receive a life-changing double heart and lung transplant.
But it's not stopping the Mt Archer State School student from compiling an impressive array of cheerleading trophies.
Sophie has been thrown up in the air as the flyer, which worried her mum at first.
In cheerleading, as in life, Sophie loves to aim as high as possible.
Despite severe health problems, Sophie's dream is to compete in the Olympics.
Although that's not the only career she has in mind.
Sophie told her mum "if I can't be a vet, I'll be a cheerleader".
It is this drive which has made Sophie popular in the classroom.
Sophie's classmates are drawn to her which has made her gain many friends.
Sophie is right at home at school when she is in her art class.
It's been a hard battle for the family; however, it has made them closer together.
"When we saw her cardiologist, he said when she was about four years old, Sophie should have been on oxygen and in a wheelchair and she's not on any of them yet," Mel said.
Mel said she laughed at the doctor when she was told that news.
Sophie was just eight days old when she went in for her first heart surgery, which involved extensive work on her arteries to help the blood flow.
She had a further two surgeries at 18 months.
Sophie's condition has made her feel down at times, but Mel said "we don't let it run her life."
"We try and treat her like every other child," Mel said.
Sophie's grandmother has become not only another carer but a second mum to Sophie, despite having her own heart problems.
Doctors are pleased with Sophie's progress, which is monitored in weekly appointments.
Mel said Sophie is able to cope with her condition most of the time.