Avas 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."

Ava had severe septic shock requiring massive inotropic support for her multi organ failure, acute renal failure and ischemic limbs. She was on full life support for 3 days. On day 4, Ava started to breathe for herself but remained intubated and ventilated for her 2.5 week stay in PICU. Ava had contracted a common bacterial infection, staphylococcus aureus, which entered her bloodstream causing severe sepsis. The odds of this occurring are 1 in 100,000. Further, Ava did not fall into any of the risk categories. We were told most children with Ava's condition die within the first two days. Ava was on haemodialysis for 5 weeks until her kidney function returned. In order to keep her vital organs alive in the first two days, the blood flow was restricted to Ava's limbs. The life changing effect of this is that three of Ava's limbs were severely affected. On 14 August 2008, she underwent amputations on her right leg just above the knee, left leg just below the knee and to most of her right hand (including all fingers and thumb). Miraculously her left hand, although also affected by sepsis, fully healed itself.

After 14 weeks in Starship and 12 operations, Ava returned home to Hamilton on 29 August 2008. Since then she has had 2 further operations at Starship and visited Middlemore on 3 occasions for dressing changes. Once she is ready to be fitted with artificial limbs, she will spend a period of time at the Wilson Home in Takapuna for intensive rehabilitation. In the meantime, she is enjoying the company of her 9 month old brother and cat.

Ava is a remarkable little girl who has shown a steely determination to do things for herself and an understanding beyond her years of her limb loss. Despite the trauma she has suffered, she has retained her bubbly personality and fighting spirit which enabled her to beat the odds to survive. While her long journey towards rehabilitation has just begun, we have no doubt she will go on to have a fulfilling life, not the one we dreamed for her, but a wonderful life never the less. Our greatest wish is for Ava to lead a normal life and to be accepted as an equal.

Stuart Meehan and Bridget Parham