Runners finish comrades to help toddler walk

2016-06-01 06:00
Gracen Wallace, who turns 3 years old in September, is the only person in South Africa who suffers from the very rare Chromosome17p13.3 syndrome.  photo: Chanice Koopman

Gracen Wallace, who turns 3 years old in September, is the only person in South Africa who suffers from the very rare Chromosome17p13.3 syndrome. photo: Chanice Koopman

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THANKS to three very brave Samaritans who completed the Comrades Marathon the past weekend and managed to raise about R13 000 as a result, little Gracen Wallace from Lorrainemight be able to walk one of these days.

“Gracey”, as she is lovingly called by her parents, is the only person in South Africa and one of only 15 people in the world who suffer from the very rare Chromosome17p13.3 syndrome.

At first glance, it is hard to believe that the energetic two-year-old girl with the wide blue eyes can neither walk nor talk. However, when you look closely and see the braces clamped around her tiny legs and listen to her making whimpering baby sounds, you start to realise that she is indeed very sick.

Chromosome17p13.3 is a syndrome in which there is an extra chromosome on chromosome 17. It affects a person’s brain and muscles and leads to very slow development.

“At the moment her brain is like that of a six- month old baby, instead of a toddler who turns three in just four months,” says Leandri Wallace, Gracen’s mother.

“The doctors told us that her brain waves are slower and since the syndrome also affects her muscles, she cannot walk or crawl and has regular seizures.

She recently had to be rushed to hospital on a ventilator because the seizures had cut off all her oxygen,” she added.

Gracen also struggles to eat and sleep.

“She does not sleep at all during the day. There are times when you can see that she is very tired, but it’s not possible for her to just fall asleep.”

When Gracen was diagnosed just after birth, her parents had a difficult time accepting the diagnosis. “It hit us really hard. But even though our situation is very challenging, we have learned to accept it,” says Brent Wallace, Gracen’s father.

“She is all we have and all we know and in spite of her limitations caused by her condition, she loves being outside, listening to music and playing in water,” says her mother.

Through her fighting spirit Gracen has also managed to touch the lives of others. A local veterinarian, Dr Hilda Meyer, who is also a family friend, along with two others, Chanelle Rood and Elnastien Kotze, were inspired by Gracen’s story and completed the 89km Comrades Marathon that took place on Sunday to help her parents raise funds.

“We are absolutely ecstatic about the outcome of the fundraiser and we are very blessed to now have enough money for a walker.

“Hilda decided to help us as she knows the strain that Gracey’s illness is taking on us financially. I recently started working half-days to that I could take care of my daughter,” she added.

Anyone who is interested in helping the family raise funds for Gracen can e-mail Leandri Wallace on

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