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On life support as a baby, Lily aims for tennis glory

Drayton Park teenager who was once given 50 per cent chance of survival is heading for Special Olympics

30 April, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Lily Mills has been selected to compete in the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi

A DRAYTON Park tennis player born with a rare genetic disorder is fundraising to play in her first international tournament.

Days after Lily Mills was born in 2000, her mum Tallulah was told there was a 50 per cent chance she would survive.

She was diagnosed with meningitis and septicaemia. Doctors found that she had a one-in-45,000 condition, galactosemia, which means she cannot consume lactose.

But now aged 17, Lily has been selected to compete in the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi – a competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Lily, who has learning difficulties, said: “It felt amazing to get the letter to say I had got through. I’m excited and I will train lots.”

Lily with mum Tallulah Bayley and cat Leonard

The former Drayton Park Primary School pupil has already won 25 gold and silver medals at regional and national learning disability tournaments across the country.

To get to Abu Dhabi, with the five other youngsters selected, she needs to raise £6,000 to contribute to one-to-one coaching, training, equipment and travel.

Her mum, Tallulah Bayley, said Lily began to take an interest in tennis at the age of five, when she used to watch her brother George, now 19, play.

Ms Bayley, a teaching assistant at Drayton Park, said: “I can’t imagine what her life would be without tennis. It’s opened up her life.

“I was trying to breast feed her as a new-born and she kept being sick. After four days I took her to the doctors and I was very concerned. It wasn’t right and the doctor realised there was something wrong.

“She was in Great Ormond Street Hospital for a month, on life support for about a week and then came home.

Lily as a baby 

“Lily now follows a strict lactose-free diet, as her liver would fail if she had it continuously. She’s very healthy.”

On Lily’s selection for the Olympics, Ms Bayley said: “I’m speechless and I’m so proud of her.”

One day Lily hopes to be part of the International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairments performance squad.

Drayton Park School head Annabelle Kapoor said: “Lily is such a kind and caring person and an amazing tennis player. She made us proud every day when she was at Drayton Park, always impressing us with her resilience and positive outlook.

“She still comes in to volunteer her time in the playground, teaching children tennis and getting them excited about the game. We are all cheering her on.”

A summer barbecue has been organised for July 21 at Mayfield Tennis Club, in Palmers Green, where Lily trains.

To donate to her fund, visit gofundme.com/getlilytothespecialolympics2019

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