Giving the gift of graphic art: Milla's story from patient to SCHF artist

3 November 2023 | Expected time to read: 2 minutes

A lot of people live their lives trying to be a guiding light, modelling to others how to be an embodiment of positivity in the world. The artist of Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation (SCHF) Christmas Appeal Card is more than a guiding light.  

Meet Milla. Now 16 years old, she was born with a very rare genetic disorder called glutaric aciduria type one and diagnosed with cerebral palsy at six months.

Milla has been exploring her creativity through art since she was five years old, and Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation is proud to be partnering with Milla for our Christmas Card design.  

“I was drawn to art because it was a way for me to express my feelings. I love art because you can do anything you want to do, and no one can tell you off because art can't be wrong,” Milla shared through her eye gaze technology device.  

Milla enjoying some sun at the beach
Pictured: Milla in hospital

Milla was excited when SCHF reached out to engage her services in designing this card, saying, “I chose to be involved in this project to inspire kids who have a disability that they can do anything they want. They just need to believe in themselves.” 

When Milla attended a workshop with SCHF Artist Educator Clare and Art Program Lead Lleah to help inspire and create this heartfelt piece of art,they talked about what Christmas means to her and what she loves most about  the festive season..  

Milla's mother, Suzan, says, “Art is so important for Milla, it's her therapeutic tool, it's her outlet she can express her views, how she feels through art. When she needs to find something to do, it's her go-to. She sits there and can draw for hours.” 

Milla spent her first Christmas in hospital and was diagnosed with 1 in 100,000 people disease at three weeks old. While these conditions might hold some people back, Milla has pushed forward and thrown herself into life and her passions, becoming an inspiring and unstoppable changemaker, redefining what is possible for children with chronic conditions and disabilities.

Pictured: Milla smiling

Milla is an example of the multidisciplinary healthcare model in action. She has an extraordinary number of teams supporting her, but all have played a role in helping her become as autonomous as possible. Her various teams have included geneticists, rehab specialists, neurologists, orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and the speech therapist who saw Milla's potential for communication with her eyes.  

Milla was introduced to the infrared eye gaze technology that has changed her life in 2012. The technology involves pupil tracking sensors that live under a screen allowing Milla to use a computer with an adeptness shared by most of us with touch screens. This technology allows her to send messages, speak, watch videos, and, most importantly, draw.  

This Christmas, Milla is looking forward to enjoying her favourite crispy ham and spending time with her family around the pool. Look below toget a behind-the-scenes look at the artwork being created.  

When speaking about her cards, Milla shared a heartfelt message  , “If you purchase one of these cards, it will go towards a really worthy cause, and it may even save lives... plus, you will be purchasing a nice card!” 

To support this young artist and give to Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation Christmas Appeal, you can purchase Milla's bespoke Christmas card through the SCHF shop.  

Follow Milla on social media and visit her website to see more of her artwork.

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Collage of Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation staff and donors making a heart symbol with their hands