Little Debbie Iasona-Hunt can't wait to start school.

The plucky 5-year-old, who mother Tafea Iasona describes as an extrovert-bordering-on-diva, will have her first day at the beginning of the term and isn't letting Moebius syndrome interfere in any way.

The Rotorua Daily Post last caught up with the family in 2014 when the youngster was only 14 months. At 10 months Debbie had been diagnosed with Moebius, a rare congenital disorder that robbed her of half her smile, the ability to blink and to move her eyes from side to side.

She is the only known person in Rotorua with Moebius and, compared to other youngsters with the syndrome, has only a mild form.


Debbie has always called her half-smile a Moebius smile but it is soon to become a "proper" one.

"In December Debbie had major surgery including nerve graphs and muscle transfers in the hope we can get some movement on the affected side of her face," Tafea said. "Up until recently I had been quite adamant she didn't need the surgery but it became apparent it was required."

Although not for any aesthetic purpose, Tafea is quick to point out. The surgery was due to problems Debbie has with her teeth.

"From a dental point of view it was have the surgery or eventually have no teeth and her jaw will never be big enough to accommodate dentures."

Tafea Iasona and herdaughter Debbie Iasona-Hunt. Photo/Andrew Warner
Tafea Iasona and herdaughter Debbie Iasona-Hunt. Photo/Andrew Warner

Tafea says she has bought Debbie up knowing her Moebius smile is perfect.

"I have been getting her ready for school because kids can be so mean. I ask Debbie what is wrong with her face and have taught her to reply that half her face does not work and to smile and say goodbye."

Tafea said she grew up as a "big little girl" and her mother prepared her in the same way.

"My mum taught me to respond to questions about my weight by saying mum feeds me good food, then asking the person what they have for lunch."


Debbie has taken to pushing one side of her face up for photographs which makes her mother sad. "I say to her 'babe, you don't need to do that'."

Moebius however, is not interfering with Debbie's excitement about her first day of school.

"I'm definitely more nervous than she is. She's champing at the bit to go but, as my youngest, I'm not quite as keen."

Tafea Iasona with her daughter Debbie in January 2014. Photo / File
Tafea Iasona with her daughter Debbie in January 2014. Photo / File

In 2014 and after being so integrated within the healthcare system, Tafea said she had hopes of becoming a nurse if Debbie was able to attend pre-school. The mother of three is now in her last year of her nursing degree.

Wednesday was Moebius Syndrome Awareness Day.