To see a girl menstruating at age ten is very rare not to talk of one doing it at age four. This rarity is not applicable to Emily Dover. Emily Dover, 5, grew breasts aged two and started her period at four.
She started menstruating at just four years old and, within the past 12 months, has grown hair on her forehead, back and vagina. Now, she is facing going through the menopause – as well as the same, often distressing, side effects that older women experience. Her mum, Tam Dover, told Mirror Online her beautiful daughter is body conscious, aware that she is different to other children her age. But heartbreakingly, the youngster can’t understand why.
Recalling the moment Emily started menstruating, Tam, 41, said: “Because she has trouble toileting, she thought she had done a poo in her undies. “We used panty liners and it didn’t last more than a day.”
She added: “She only had her period again the other day”. “She hasn’t even had a chance to be a little girl. “She’s having to learn how to put panty liners on for menstruating.”
When the youngster gets her period, she walks over to her devoted mum and dad, Matt, 40, and tells them that her “foo foo is bleeding”. “It’s difficult to explain to her what is happening,” said Tam. “She knows she’s different, she knows she’s much bigger than other children. “She’s very conscious of her body.”
She added that she and her husband 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,” said the mum. Emily, who weighs around seven stone, was born perfect “in every way”. A happy baby, she was smaller than her older siblings had been at birth .
But after just a week, things took a turn for the worse. She became unsettled, started crying out in pain and had difficulty sleeping. She also started growing, rapidly. By four months old, she was the size of a one year old. By two years old, she had developed breast buds and powerful body odour.
Two years later, she began her period. She was finally was diagnosed with Addisons disease this summer after years of doctor’s trips and tests. The disorder means her adrenal glands don’t produce enough steroid hormones. The youngster also has central precocious puberty – where puberty starts too early in children – congenital adrenal hyperplasia and autism spectrum disorder. And she has sensory processing disorder and anxiety disorder.
“Emily is my youngest child and she was also my smallest baby after birth. She was 8lbs,” said Tam, also mum to a 22-year-old and 20-year-old. “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.” She and Matt soon noticed their daughter was growing “at exceptional rates”. At four weeks of age, Emily grew 4cm in just seven days.
“Little did we know, or her physicians, that Emily had underlying conditions that are rarely seen,” Tam wrote on a GoFundMe page, set up to raise money to cover the “astronomical” costs of her daughter’s treatments and medical care. She told Mirror Online that one medic told her the youngster was likely “reaching her genetic capabilities” – because both she and her husband are tall.
However, by four months of age, she was the size of a one year old. The “strong and caring” girl was also suffering from “constant health issues”. These included “bouts of sickness, and infections” that doctors allegedly “put down to being in daycare” because both Tam and Matt work.
“She continued to grow,” her mum said. “At four months old, we were dressing her in clothes for a 12- to 18-month-old baby.”
She added that doctors told her and her husband it was “just how” their daughter was – or that she might have contracted a virus at daycare. “There was always an answer,” she said. By two, Emily, who eats a healthy, nutritional diet, had developed noticeable body odour. “She gave the burliest man a run for his money,” Tam said.
She had also started complaining of painful breasts and stomach cramps. “Each time her growth was measured it was always way above the 99th percentile, and often 99th percentile for a couple of years above her age,” Tam wrote on the GoFundMe page, called ‘Emily. Teenager Before Her Time’.
“By 2 years of age, Emily had breast buds and body odour, and a rash on her skin since birth that was now being diagnosed as cystic acne.”
The family was referred to the Pediatric Acute Care Unit at Wyong Hospital. There, a series of tests were run and Emily’s hormone levels came back as though she was a pregnant woman, according to her mum. “Emily was then 3 years of age; she had breast buds, strega on her legs, excess body hair, and acne,” said Tam, who works in a local public hospital.
“Something was very wrong with our little girl.”
She continued: “Eventually, they did a long run of tests that involved our daughter needing to be sedated, because now, blood draws and the process was causing her little body so much stress that she was prone to go in to Adrenal Crisis which is life threatening.”
Despite the tests, Emily’s conditions were reportedly so complex that medics were unable to give a “definite answer”. “But our daughter’s body was ageing faster than other people’s with her bone age nearly 4 years above her chronological age,” Tam said. She described how the little girl – considered a “diagnostic challenge” by medics – was in “constant pain” from her growth.
“Currently at 5 years old, Emily is the 99th percentile for 8 year olds, has already started menstruating,” she continued. “She is due to start her treatment of hormone replacement therapy that is a 3 monthly injection.
“It 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.”
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.
Since setting up the GoFundMe page a couple of weeks ago, 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,” said Tam, from Gosford.
She added that, today, 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,” Tam said. “Despite everything, she is so happy.”
She told Mirror Online the little girl has an incredible desire to nurture – something that may be down to her hormones. “She’s really special”, she said.
However, Emily has already been bullied at daycare – and will soon have to face “being the different kid” at 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,” Tam said.
“That impact will be when she starts school next year, and will have to face being the kid that is so different to others. ” The mum hopes that other families going through a similar situation might be able to learn from her daughter’s story.