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Family calls to community to help 4-year-old Ont. boy diagnosed with terminal illness


Four-year-old George Dempsey from Cookstown, Ont., is defying the odds and thriving in the face of adversity.

When he was just a year old, his parents learned George had a rare form of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a diagnosis with a terminal prognosis.

"We were told it's terminal by age two," said mom Lauren Dempsey.

SMA affects every muscle in George's body, but despite his diagnosis, his mom says he is "thriving."

"He is doing incredible. No stopping him. He has been in school since after the holidays," she said. "He's learning sign language, has friends, he's talking more."

Lauren Dempsey holds her son George. Cookstown, Ont. Tue. Nov. 22, 2022 (CTV NEWS/Mike Arsalides)

"He's a pretty determined little man, so we want to help support that as much as we can," she added.

Given his determination, his parents started researching ways to help his development.

"He is always sitting. He has a wheelchair that he sits in, a scoot-scoot. Anytime he's doing anything, he's in a sitting position no matter what. So the next step would be to have him in more of a standing-up position," Dempsey said, adding she discovered what George calls 'robotic legs' by chance.

They drove down to Mississauga to TREXO Robotics to try out the device that could support George, allowing him to stand for the first time in his life.

"As soon as they let him push play, and his feet were planted on the ground, and he was propelling himself forward, he lit up," she recalled.

"The smile on his face - the whole office was standing up watching him. He went around the office space, the warehouse, for the first time ever, being able to have that sensation."

George Dempsey, 4, stands upright for the first time with his 'robotic legs' at TREXO Robotics in Mississauga, Ont. (Supplied)

The robotic device also allows for important bone development.

While the Dempseys pride themselves on having navigated this journey on their own so far, George's new independence comes with a hefty price tag of $40,000.

"It's really hard to reach out and ask for help. It's something that's taken us a while to come to," Dempsey admitted. "My husband and I and our friends are really trying to make sure we can make this happen for George, and he can put his best self forward and show other kids that it's possible."

The family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the 'robot legs. At the time this article was published, it had raised over half of its $50,000 goal.

"George is always in devices out of necessity, and for the first time, this is a device that is a necessity but also brings him joy, and that's something he doesn't get to experience often," Dempsey said. Top Stories

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