AN IRISH girl who has spent her entire life being fed through a tube is now enjoying real food.
Courteney Leahy Geasley (10) suffers from Velo Cardio Facial Syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder.
As a result, the youngster from Cobh, Co Cork, is missing part of the 22nd chromosome which can cause cardiovascular defects and feeding difficulties.
Up to last month Courteney had to be fed through a tube in her stomach.
However, Courteney and her mother Sonya flew to the Children's University Hospital in Graz, Austria, in March to enable the youngster to take part in a programme to teach her how to eat food and swallow.
Some €20,000 was raised by the people of Cobh to pay for her care in Austria.
Sonya said she was amazed at the progress her daughter made in just one month at the hospital, adding she could not believe it when the medics said they would remove the tube.
She said her daughter was eating things like mashed potato for the first time.
Sonya thought Courteney "would have the tube for the rest of her life".
While in Graz, the 10-year-old received speech therapy, occupational therapy and musical therapy in advance to the feeding programme.
She spent the first three months of her life in Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.
This was followed by another five months in Cork University Hospital.
Medical complications are associated with the condition also include gastro-intestinal problems, immune-system problems, growth issues and kidney differences.
When the money was raised, her mother praised the fundraising efforts.
"The fundraising is brilliant. I can't believe it. It is a weight off my shoulders to have funds raised," she said at the time.
While mother and daughter were in Austria, the local bridge club in Cobh raised €1,000.