Real Life

Cycle for life

Little Billie-Jean Reid has spent a third of her young life plastered from her ankles to her chest, unable to kick her wee legs like most other babies. But that’s not the only problem the courageous nine-month-old has faced. She has also had major heart surgery for a defect she was born with and, until recently, was unable to feed properly.

Despite the pain of two operations and being trapped in a plaster cast for dislocated hips, Billie-Jean never grizzled. It’s this incredible bravery that has inspired her mum Tracey (35) to break out of her own comfort zone.

Until this year, Tracey, of ot oaunganui, hadn’t ridden a bike since her schooldays. But now she’s taking on a cycling challenge to raise money for Heart Children New Zealand, a charity that has played a big part in Billie-Jean’s battle.

“Billie-Jean is amazing,” says Tracey. “She’s in a brace for her hips and can’t swallow correctly so she has to be fed through a tube, but she’s never grumpy. She’s a little angel.”

Until she decided to take part in the Wattyl Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, Tracey rarely exercised and spent a lot of time stuck indoors with Billie-Jean and her son Hunter (2). Tracey, whose inspiring story has also led her to become a role model for the Sport & Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) Push Play campaign, says nothing prepared her for the intense pressure of looking after a seriously unwell child.

“A healthy baby is hard work but this is 10 times harder,” she says. “Training for the cycle challenge gives me energy though, and I always try to remember there are lots of people who are worse off.”

Billie-Jean’s heart problem was found when she was six weeks of age and her dislocated hips at four months.

“She had never learned to feed or suck or swallow – she didn’t have the energy. At first we fed her through a tube in her nose, then through a tube into her tummy. We’re trying to teach her to eat solids now, and she’s slowly getting the gist of it.”

Tracey’s husband Willie (35) is also taking part in the cycle challenge and reaping the health benefits of being active. “The best thing we’ve done is to get on our bikes and get out there. It revitalised us and we also know it’s going to benefit Billie-Jean and kids like her. I just can’t wait to see her grow up.”

Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.

Related stories