Bella Thomson is eight years old, but looks much younger due to a form of dwarfism called cartilage hair hypoplasia.
Diagnosed with this and two other genetic conditions shortly after being born, Bella has been through far more than most do in a lifetime, having multiple operations before she reached her first birthday and spending years in hospital.
She also has to sleep with an IV drip, as this is the only way for her to ingest food and take in the vitamins and nutrition she needs.
Despite her struggles, Bella is a positive and happy young girl – and this attitude has led to her becoming a TikTok star.
Her inspirational videos have won her 4.5 million followers and 96 million likes on TikTok, and she has been dubbed ‘Bella the Brave’ by fans.
Kyla Thompson, 38, who is her full-time carer, and dad, Lyle, 35, who works in land management for the local council, could not be prouder of their eldest child, whose first TikTok video of her drawing garnered 29 million views.
Former primary school teacher, Kyla, of Saskatchewan, Canada, said: ‘TikTok is where we post all the happy stuff we do in our family.
‘What people love about Bella on that platform is that she is so inspiring and is spreading so much joy, despite the medical challenges she has.’
But the mum says her daughter’s popularity serves a greater purpose, improving understanding in what she calls a ‘medical family.’
She said: ‘The real reason I started posting was that I wanted to educate people about what we were dealing with because I knew that, in turn, would better protect Bella.
‘People can be mean and say hurtful things when they don’t know or understand something.
‘I didn’t want anything happening that would make her feel bad about herself, so using social media is my way of protecting Bella by helping people to better understand what she has to deal with.’
Bella’s health issues became apparent when she was just three days old, when Kyla and Lyle were told their newborn had a bowel disease called Hirschsprung, where parts of the colon are dead.
Operations followed, but at 11 months, Bella’s parents were told she also had a chronic immune condition known as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) that meant she could die from just catching a common cold.
Just a baby, she had to spend two months in isolation in hospital and have a bone marrow transplant. It that during this time that Bella was also diagnosed with cartilage hair hypoplasia.
A bone growth disorder which also causes sparse hair growth and light-coloured skin, it means she still has the physical build of a one-year-old. Doctors don’t yet know if she’s going to keep growing, but believe Bella may one day grow to four feet tall.
Kyla says it’s a ‘miracle’ that she her daughter has made it this far, as for a period of time even food was dangerous for her and she had to be tube-fed.
Bella can now eat some solids, but her diet is still highly restricted. Her parents hope that, if she is able to have a bowel transplant – something she is currently on the waiting list for – it will change her life.
Nonetheless, Bella continues to soldier on. She loves school (where her favourite subjects are maths and PR) and playing with her little brother.
She’s not letting her small stature get in the way of her big ambitions either, planning to be a fashion designer when she grows up.
Kyla said: ‘She spent her first two years of life in hospital and never knew anything different. She was used to groups of 15 adults standing around her bed discussing her and to being the centre of attention.’
Now she even has famous fans, with the American pop star Halsey sending her a little care package of gifts after seeing her videos.
Kyla said: ‘Bella just exudes joy which is why she is so inspirational and TikTok is our happy place.’
The mum-of-two added: ‘I don’t think people understand the sacrifices medical families like ours have to make or what we go through.
‘One of my big hopes about using social media to tell Bella’s story is that we can help other families going through similar things, because the way to get people to understand better is to educate them.
‘Technically, Bella is not even supposed to be here — and she knows that.
‘But here she is, spreading so much joy and inspiring others. She has shown us what really matters in life.’
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