Isaac Gatley, 12, who has achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, with his mum Joanne. Isaac is part of a world-first research trial measuring pain and fatigue in people with dwarfism. Picture: Annette Dew
Isaac Gatley, 12, who has achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, with his mum Joanne. Isaac is part of a world-first research trial measuring pain and fatigue in people with dwarfism. Picture: Annette Dew

Small steps to a better life for Isaac

BRISBANE schoolboy Isaac Gatley is learning to live in a world geared towards much taller people.

But a world-first research trial, led by Queensland Children's Hospital physiotherapist Penny Ireland hopes to identify ways to help the 12-year-old and others with his rare medical condition to adapt.

Isaac was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, which means that although his trunk is of normal size, he has short arms and legs.

His legs often have to work overtime to keep up, with a fitness tracker showing he commonly walks about 18,000 steps a day at school, many more than what's recommended for children his age.

Dr Ireland is leading the research to develop a screening tool to measure pain and fatigue in people with dwarfism that she hopes will allow for better assessment of treatment interventions.

Like many other boys his age, Isaac loves to play sport, go camping and bush walking.

Although he copes well, something as simple as climbing stairs can be tiring and influenced where his parents, Joanne and Greg, chose to send him to high school.

He started at St Thomas More College at Sunnybank, on Brisbane's southside, earlier this year. Since then, the school has worked with the Gatleys to help Isaac integrate.

That includes Isaac's physical education teacher adding extra hoops on the school's netball court for the Year 7 student to better involve him in the game.

"They got some hoops and put them further down the post so that he could more easily score," Mrs Gatley said.

"The rest of the team played at the normal height. Isaac was really thrilled with how included he was. Everybody deserves to have a go. It's so important that he does have those experiences that the other kids at school have."

Isaac is part of Dr Ireland's research into skeletal dysplasia - an umbrella term for all forms of dwarfism - measuring pain and fatigue that impacts their ability to participate fully in everyday life.

Dr Ireland hopes her research will assist in developing solutions, such as encouraging people with the condition to use scooters when having to walk long distances.

"I had a five-year-old with skeletal dysplasia who came into clinic one day and was so sad because he had to decide between which one of two friends' birthday parties he would go to on the weekend," she said. "One was on Saturday and one had a party on Sunday. He told me: 'If I go to the party on Saturday, I'm going to be so sore and tired I'll have to spend the next day in bed.' That's an awful thing for a five-year-old to be talking about."

Dr Ireland needs more people with skeletal dysplasia aged up to 85 years to join her study.

People interested should email: QPRS@health.qld.gov.au