Heart of a lion

Veronica Thomas (left) and her daughter Lauren Oliver at a reception hosted by the New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji Jonathan Curr at his residence in Suva on Wednesday evening. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

LAUREN Oliver’s heart of a lion has paved her a path to the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in March next year.

Diagnosed with congenital heart defect and living with Down syndrome, Oliver, 20, has overcome the toughest of challenges and is preparing to give her best at the summer games for Fiji in swimming.

Despite her condition, Oliver trains every morning five days a week in the pool followed by gym sessions.

Her mother Veronica Thoms, who was diagnosed with alopecia — a term used for many types of hair loss, said her daughter was a keen swimmer who had a passion for the sport while she was at Suva Special School.

She said Starship Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand performed surgery on Oliver 15 years ago.

“We are now 15 years down the track and she had never had an operation, but Lauren has been a keen swimmer, training everyday with her coach as she prepares for the Special Olympics World Summer Games.

“Lauren is the oldest of my three children and she is the only one of them who also has alopecia, but she is happy to look like me,” Ms Thoms added.

The family is originally from New Zealand but have resided in Fiji over the past decades. Having a child with Down syndrome and congenital heart defect, Ms Thoms said, could be quite a challenge, but she would go to the ends of the world to make her daughter happy.

*More in today’s The Fiji Times and on our e-edition

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