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Reaching out for Thalia

The 29th of August 2015 began as a typical day but turned into the stuff of nightmares for the Standley family from Lake Macquarie. While playing at a friend’s house, a savage attack by a neighbour's dog ended with their beautiful daughter Thalia, who only days before had celebrated her 8th birthday, losing her right arm. (PICTURED: The Standley family, photo by Tim Bradshaw.)

It was a traumatic event and shocked not only friends and first responders who were there and witnessed the aftermath but anyone hearing the story for the first time. It is any parent's worst fear that something like this would happen to their child. However, it is when the worst of things happen, that can bring out the best in those around you and the local community have come out in force to gather around this strong, resilient little girl and her family.

The people who helped Thalia and ultimately save her life have repeatedly said her bravery and strength is something that they will never forget and is what is helping them get through the trauma. She was lucid throughout the whole thing and in the ambulance on the way to the hospital was able to give them her name and DOB, address and phone numbers and even corrected the paramedic on the spelling of her name.

Just days after the attack, while she lay in a hospital bed and her family were all still trying to come to terms with what had happened, Thalia was visited by her 7-year-old best friend who had raised the alarm on the day. She said "don't worry I'll help you at school" and Thalia said "well you will have to, you're my right-hand man now" and they both smiled.

Thalia’s parents Sally and Randall and her three siblings Jacob, Jessica and Nathan are all trying to ensure that Thalia's life is as close to normal as possible. When asked how everyone is coping Sally said: "I always said from day dot if her spirit does not get broken, we will be ok because her spirit is so high of love of life, love of people, love of animals just love."

Those close to the Standley family will tell you that you will never hear Thalia complain. Even Mum Sally, with her baby girl in the hospital (a time anyone could be forgiven for just thinking of themselves), was telling friends about travelling to Africa not long before the accident. She had spent time in a facility for kids who had lost limbs in awful circumstances - including machete attacks. The kids had been treated with no available pain medication and Sally was grateful that at least she had that for Thalia. This is an exceptional family.

The attack itself has been detailed by local and national media including The Project but after 9 operations and 5 long months, the family are focused on the positive and how to heal everyone affected. Despite a great attitude, sadly there are continuing medical costs involved.

(LEFT: Thalia Photo Credit Darren Kidd)

As Thalia is still growing she will require a new prosthetic arm every year, which even at a basic level cost around $15,000 each. A trust fund has been set up to help with some of those ongoing medical costs for Thalia.

A Gala Dinner is being held at Belmont 16 Footers on February 27, to help raise funds. Tickets include a 3-course dinner and drinks as well as some great entertainment, guest speakers and some fantastic auction items.

Helping Children Deal with Trauma

The principal of Valentine Public School, Rick Budden and Thalia's teacher, Nicole Lawson have gone beyond the call of duty in the wake of Thalia’s accident.Aware that everyone felt the effects - not only Thalia and her three school mates who were with Thalia at the time of the incident - but the whole school community.

The pair has found brilliant ways to help with any questions and concerns the kids have by using art and music therapy techniques. These include a stunning hand painted "Worry Tree" which stands over 2 metres high. The concept comes from a book by the same name by Marianne Musgrove. The artwork allows the children to write down any concerns they have and the different animals on the tree will hold them so the kids don't have to.

They also use a song by Jack Johnson called Upside Down in the classroom. All the kids now know the words and you can feel the whole space lighten as they sing along.

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