1 Year On

25May2009

This week marks the first anniversary of Ava's sudden and near fatal illness. We, her parents, look back on that dreadful day in Waikato Hospital's ICU with numbness and disbelief that our beautiful daughter was being attacked by an unknown infection and there was nothing we could do to stop it. We will never forget the Head Consultant's words to us that Ava may not survive the illness and to be prepared to say goodbye to her. About eight weeks earlier I fought back the tears when reading an article by Michael Laws about his then 3 year old daughter Lucy's illness and her miniscule chances of survival. At the time I tried to imagine how a parent would even begin to cope when placed in that position. I was so thankful to have two healthy children. Little did I know that in the very near future I would be on the receiving end of those same words no parent wishes to hear.

So how do you cope when a child is staring death down a barrel? It is impossible to describe unless you have been there. Ones own survival instincts kick in and you just have to walk the path not knowing where you are going to end up. Our path consisted of an almost 4 month stay at Starship during which time Ava faced many painful dressing changes (at times every alternate day), countless operations and therapy sessions - all of which broke our heart but in the process made us (and her) stronger. This had been followed by a long and at times frustrating and exhausting road to get Ava up walking again.

On the walking front, Ava is now onto her second pair of artificial limbs having outgrown her last pair at Easter. Her new right leg has a moveable knee which gives her greater freedom however she has had to learn a new way of walking. As a result we have lost some of the ground previously made. Incredibly, she worked out almost immediately the technique required to operate the knee. The downside is that having been 6 weeks without legs while they were being made, she is not keen to wear her new ones except at daycare where she gets upset when she has to take them off.

Ava's mobility surprises many and even we watch in amazement as she climbs up onto furniture that previously she was unable to. Ava has never once complained to us about not having legs or a hand. She just gets on and does things. She is an inspiration to her family and she continues to amaze us with her positive outlook and strength of character.

In addition to the wonderful organisations and businesses listed on Ava's thank you page, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us this past 12 months. Our family and friends have been instrumental in helping us to help Ava. We also wish to give our sincere thanks to our employers, Patton Ltd and Tompkins Wake who kept our jobs open for us and were supportive of us. There have many people and organisations who have sent Ava gifts and donated generously to her appeal. We thank each and everyone of you.

Finally, to Ava and Hamish - you are the most wonderful children and we are so proud of you both.

Bridget and Stuart

Ava's Story

Ava was a 2 year 8 month old active, gorgeous little girl when she became unwell during the third week of May 2008. On Friday 23 May she saw the Doctor who diagnosed the common childhood condition croup. The following day she returned to the Doctor immediately after waking from her afternoon sleep vomiting. Viral croup was confirmed by a different doctor.

On the morning of Sunday 25 May, Ava was taken to Waikato Hospital with breathing difficulties arising from croup. She was admitted to a ward for 24 hour observation. She deteriorated overnight and on Monday morning was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit and into theatre to have a ventilator tube inserted down her windpipe to assist her to breathe. We were advised she had a serious case of croup and possible blood poisoning but was safe.

Within the hour she deteriorated and by midday she was being resuscitated. We were taken aside and told she may not survive and to be prepared to say goodbye to her. We anxiously waited for specialists from the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Starship Hospital to arrive by plane. They arrived at 3pm and spent the next 3 hours saving her life and stabilising her for the flight to Starship by the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter. She was transported successfully but in "extremis." Read more