Aysha's Story

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When Aysha was six, she received the unexpected diagnosis of Chiari Malformation, meaning some of her brain tissue was extending into her spinal canal. The doctors soon discovered she also had Syringomyelia, which could damage the spinal cord and compress and injure the nerve fibers that carry information to and from the brain to the body. A cyst or cavity forms within the spinal cord which can expand and elongate over time, destroying it. There is no cure for Chiari Malformation, so surgery would be necessary to help her cerebral spinal fluid flow properly and hopefully resolve the cyst problem.

After Diagnosis

On March 15, 2010, brave seven-year-old Aysha had brain decompression surgery at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite which lasted 4 ½ hours. The experience was very frightening for her and her mom, Julie. Thankfully, Aysha's favorite stuffed animal friend, Puppy, went with her every step of the way, which helped a lot.
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girl with short brown hair looking at the camera and smiling in hospital bed, she is holding a stuffed animal, a brown dog piece of red tape with white stripespiece of red tape with white stripescorner shadow
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Aysha and Puppy went to ICU where they stayed for five difficult days. It was painful at first because they removed part of her skull, and inserted a titanium plate in her head. They also removed the first two vertebrae in her neck, but the surgery was a success! After six days Aysha went home, but she had to be careful not to bump her head while she played. Because of this her activities were limited, which was okay. What she really loved to do was play with her dolls.

The Next Few Years

During the next few years, Aysha had five different surgeries and multiple other procedures, all of which brought her back to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where she met kids with many different special healthcare needs.

Aysha loved to play with her dolls and play act out her hospital experiences. While she was being treated at Children’s Healthcare she realized her medical challenges were invisible, hidden underneath her thick hair, but other kids with visible disabilities and medical needs didn’t have a doll that looked like them. That’s when her dream began…  
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These thoughts continued to grow in her mind until, at age 12, she became determined these kids would one day have a doll that could be customized to match whatever disability they have. She thought if kids with and without disabilities and special needs could play together more easily, they would grow to better understand each other.
Julie knew Aysha’s dream to make this doll wasn’t going away. So one very poignant day, with so many difficult life issues weighing down on them, Julie promised Aysha she would do everything in her power to help her daughter’s dream come true.
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Making It Happen

Julie and Aysha went down many paths looking for professionals to help them with this idea. It took them 2 years to find Rick Harrison, a doll maker who had already developed a multi-articulated 18” doll, and Marsha Roberts, a businesswoman, to embrace this concept.
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picture of red text with the dates March 15, 2010 and March 15, 2017
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They all met for the first time on March 15, 2017, exactly seven years from the day Aysha had her surgery. Rick’s doll design turned out to be a great fit with Aysha’s idea because, at most joints, the dolls can be specially customized for limb-different children and could move like real kids do too!

What will we call these special dolls?

JUST FOR YOU! DOLLS

Why? Because they’ll be made JUST FOR YOU!

two female Caucasian dolls with long light brown hair are sitting, one in a chair with her legs crossed, the other in her wheelchair.

Aysha Today

Watching her dream come true has granted Aysha a unique perspective on her challenges. If it were not for her experience with Chiari Malformation, the surgery, and all the procedures that followed, there wouldn't be dolls being developed especially for these kids. Now she can hardly wait for the day when she can walk into a hospital and place a Just For You! Doll that’s been personalized for the child's disabilities, special or medical needs into the arms of the special child who's been waiting for it!
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That will be a very special day!

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