Real Life

Lovely Lydia’s courage: I’ll never be mediocre

She’s defied her diagnosis with a can-do attitude

When mum Ana Sharpe took her newborn baby into her arms at Auckland’s National Women’s Hospital 23 years ago, she made her daughter a solemn promise.

“I looked at her and thought, ‘Come hell or high water, I am going to give her a wonderful life, a normal life.’ She deserved that,” says Ana, 64.

Yet doctors told Ana that her baby, Lydia Hoby-Sharpe, wasn’t expected to make it. Born with a rare craniofacial anomaly, Lydia’s ear canals were sealed and her outer ears undeveloped.

More serious, though, was her small, recessed jaw, which compromised her airways and meant she regularly stopped breathing. Yet despite the prognosis, Ana was determined her only child would do more than just survive – she would succeed.

Inspiring duo: Ana (left) and daughter Lydia are now both studying for degrees.

“They told me she was deaf and I knew she wasn’t. A Salvation Army band was playing outside the hospital window and Lydia turned her head towards the sound,” recalls Ana, who is currently finishing her master’s degree in counselling.

Doctors told Ana that Lydia’s best chance of survival was to spend the first year of her life in hospital. “I wouldn’t have that,” remembers Ana. “She was my baby and I wanted to take her home.”

Now, more than two decades on, Ana’s gritty resolve and Lydia’s drive have seen this mother-daughter duo prove the nay-sayers wrong.

At age four, Lydia received a specialised CPAP machine which helped keep her airways open at night (previously, Ana would sleep next to her daughter all night to make sure she didn’t stop breathing in her sleep).

Devoted mum Ana encouraged her daughter to try new things, from playing the violin to learning Latin.

Then, at age 11, Ana went into bat for Lydia again to secure her a state-of-the-art bone conductor hearing aid. Over the years, Lydia has also undergone three surgeries in the US to create outer ears with renowned surgeon Dr Burt Brent.

Today, Lydia describes herself as driven, ambitious and even “a workaholic”. That work ethic is evident as the avid student works towards finishing her law degree at the University of Auckland, where she specialises in international law. Her hope is to one day become a diplomat.

She is also doing a bachelor’s degree in History and Latin, and a Diploma of Languages in Russian and Spanish. For someone who wasn’t expected to live long, she is well on her way to greatness.

“I have a picture next to my mirror which says, ‘You did not wake up today to be mediocre,’” tells Lydia. “I am driven by the desire to do better than I or other people thought possible for me.”

Hard-working Lydia hopes to one day become a diplomat. “I am driven by the desire to do better than I thought possible,” she says.

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