Emily Dover, a five-year-old girl shocked her parents when she grew breasts aged two, started her period at four and now facing menopause.
Little Emily was still a toddler when she developed breast buds, strong body odour and cystic acne. She started menstruating at just four years old and, within the past 12 months, has grown hair on her forehead, back and vagina. She is now going through menopause – as well as the same, often distressing, side effects that older women experience.
Her mum, Tam Dover, is frustrated that Emily “hasn’t had a chance to be a little girl” and has now become “very conscious of her body.” She has also been forced to learn how to put “pantyliners on for menstruating” at such a young age.
When docs from the Paediatric Acute Care Unit in Wyong Hospital, Australia tested Emily, they discovered her hormones were as though she was a pregnant woman.
After years of doctor’s trips and tests, Emily was diagnosed with central precocious puberty (where puberty starts too early in children) and Addison’s disease, which means her adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones. The youngster also has adrenal hyperplasia and autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder and anxiety disorder.
At four months old, Emily was the size of a one-year-old, although she was born perfect “in every way” and healthy 10lbs.
“She continued to grow. At four months old we were dressing her in clothes for a 12 to an 18-month-old baby,” her mum said.
But after her first “normal” week, Emily struggled to sleep and was under a great amount of pain. Emily’s mum finds it difficult to explain what is happening to her, even though the little girl has now become fully aware that she is different.
Recalling the moment Emily started her period, Tam Dover told Mirror Online: “Because she has trouble toileting, she thought she had done a poo in her undies.
“We used pantyliners and it didn’t last more than a day. She only had her period again the other day”.
When little Emily gets her period, she walks over to her mum and dad and tells them that her “foo foo is bleeding”.
“It’s difficult to explain to her what is happening. She knows she’s different, she knows she’s much bigger than other children. She’s very conscious of her body,” Tam said.
She added that she and her 40-year-old husband, Matt know that how they react is “how Emily will react” – so they make sure they respond to situations carefully. “I don’t want her to fear what is happening,” her mum said.
A happy baby, Emily was smaller than her older siblings had been at birth. She is the youngest child in a family with a 22-year-old and 20-year-old.
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“The child before her was 10lbs. The first week was pretty normal. After that, [things] turned quite bad, she wasn’t sleeping well, was in pain.”
Tam disclosed that her daughter regularly suffers from “very painful” bone growth, sore and itchy breasts and sensory issues.
Some days, she wakes up with swellings on her wrists and ankles. “At 5 years old, Emily is the strongest, most caring girl I know. Despite everything, she is so happy.”
She said the little girl has an incredible desire to nurture – something that may be down to her hormones. “She’s really special”, Tam said.
Emily was bullied at daycare and now her mum fears she may be the “different kid” at her new primary school.
“There are so many aspects of her life, that thankfully, she is too young to be completely aware of that are going to impact her. That impact will be when she starts school next year, and will have to face being the kid that is so different to others,” Tam said.
Like other girls her age, Emily wants to wear ball gowns, dress up and run around. But she still struggles to go to the toilet independently.
Tam said although she and Matt, a security guard, don’t have a lot of family around them, they are “blessed with some close friends”. “But through this we are mostly alone,” she added.
The couple are said to be “at a loss financially”, unable to raise money for all of the treatment their daughter desperately needs.
What we are hoping is to raise some much needed money to get Emily more treatments and to cover the costs of her on going medical care,” Tam wrote.
Little Emily is due to start hormone replacement therapy, which requires her to receive an injection every three months. Tam set up a GoFundMe page called ‘Emily. Teenager Before Her Time’, to raise money for the “astronomical” costs of her daughter’s treatments and medical care.
“It (the 3 monthly injection) is $1,455 (£1,105) per shot, and will throw her into menopause, with all the side effects that 50+ year old women have, and as we are both working, we are not entitled to health care /pension card rebates.
“So this treatment, along with her other many appointments and therapies, are covered by us solely.
“We work full time each and each time Emily is sick, it is days off, mostly without pay, as we have exhausted all of our leave entitlements,” Tam said.
Since setting up the GoFundMe page, Emily’s family have been approved a health card which will help with the cost of medication. But “it still doesn’t provide access to NDIS [Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme] services,”Tam said.