SURVIVAL A MIA MIRACLE
How a bubbly five-year-old bounced back after sepsis took her arms and legs
ALL I want for Christmas is a new set of legs. This is Mia Wilkinson’s wish.
Like all preschoolers Mia, 5, is excited about Christmas. Just a mention that Santa is coming soon and her face lights up. Mia has a cheeky smile that would melt a thousand hearts, a big grin that belies the horrors she has lived in the past year. A year that saw the healthy, energetic girl fall ill with the flu and within days end up on life support with deadly sepsis. Her heart stopped and a team of medics brought her back from the brink of death. She lost her arms and, not long afterwards, her legs.
Mia is now very new to the challenges of life as a quadruple amputee but this amaz- ing little girl is an inspiration. She is resilient and determined, the characteristics that made her cling so tightly to life. She is writing like any other preppie, can colour in between the lines, loves swimming and climbing.
“She just wants to be like the other kids and that is what we want for her,” her mum Amy said.
Putting their own trauma to the side, the Wilkinson family wraps this litle ray of sunshine in endless love. There is Amy, 39, a stay-at- home mum, IT specialist dad Peter, big sister Ellie, 7 and little brother Max, 2.
Mia was supplied with a set of hospital legs in July, her first pair following the amputation of her legs in January. Like all little kids she is growing at a rapid rate and in just four months has outgrown them. They are uncomfortable and she hates putting them on.
“Sadly, buying Mia a new pair of legs is not just like buying a child a new pair of shoes,” Amy said. “A set of legs will cost around $30,000. Mia will continue to grow and keeping her out of her wheelchair is going to cost a lot of money over the years.”
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is working on a plan for the Wilkinsons but they have been told it will take months.
“They have informed us they will provide funding for what is ‘reasonable and necessary’, “Amy said.
Sepsis, a serious complication of infection, takes the life of 5000 Australians annually.
“We had never heard of sepsis but it has turned our lives upside down,” Amy said. “Sepsis has flu-like symptoms making it difficult to detect. Time is critical and antibiotics need to be administered early.”
Sepsis was Mia’s body’s immune response to influenza A, influenza B, respiratory syncytial virus and an invasive streptococcal A bacterial infection.
“It all came out of nowhere,” Amy said. “On the Friday Mia was pefectly fine, playing with her cousins, and by Sunday the light purple rash appeared on her legs. We took her to hospital and within hours she was in intensive care fighting for her life. As doctors put a tube down her throat to help her breathe her heart stopped and a team of medics rushed in to try to revive her. That was a profound moment that replays in my head. I let out a scream to my husband Peter and shouted ‘We are losing her’. h ’W We held each other and cried and I can’t put into words the relief when they found a heartbeat.”
The distraught parents could do nothing as they watched a dark purple infection creep up their child’s arms and legs. They watched and waited in a fog of fear.
“On the second or third day, a nurse pointed to the display on the machine that was doing Mia’s breathing,” Amy said. “Every minute or so a little picture of lungs would flash up. The nurse explained this happened whenever Mia
attempted to breathe on her own. We can’t describe the relief at seeing that icon as we began to believe Mia would come through.”
On October 21, after six days on life support, Mia started breathing on her own and talking. The dark rash was hard to ignore, but there was tremendous hope.
“We had so much hope that she wouldn’t lose too much of her hands and feet. All we could do was be with her, be her advocates, surround her with family and love her,” Amy said.
Mia loves swimming, gymnastics, drawing and painting. Using what is left of her arms, she can write as well as any classmate. She is smart and never gives up. Her prep teacher, Cassandra Fehervary, is working with Amy to build Mia’s independence.
“Mia is bubbly, positive, determined, persistent and resilient,” she said. “She has her highs and lows and we are trying to teach her to try things for herself. The kids show her great compassion and empathy.”
Mia’s best friend – another Mia, surname McCosker – is always by her side. They giggle and share secrets like all other five-year-olds. The memories of the past year are like open wounds,, but the Wilkinsons have big hopes for a big life for their little Mia.
C ALL me oldfashioned, but I like my drinks wet and my bars dry.
So when my friend told me she’d be having her 30th birthday celebrations at a swim-up bar, I googled how long you needed to leave a chicken breast out before you’d get salmonella poisoning from eating it.
Swim-up bars are like swimming under a waterfall. Both seem like a relaxing, jolly good time, but anyone who has had a waterfall pelting their head, neck straining to stay upright under the pressure, knows the reality is very different to a Peter Andre film clip.
I’ve only had one swim-up bar experience, when I was in Bali, and found it stressful, confusing and somewhat disturbing.
Which, to be fair, is a standard night out for me, but I vowed not to rush back into another gimmicky experience.
I’m non-confrontational so instead of telling my friend to her face that I think a swimup bar 30th is the worst idea I’ve heard since Smith’s stopped making tomatoflavoured chips, I’m going to outline the perils of a swimup bar and shove the article under her door.
A recent scientific study from the US has revealed that only .012 per cent of the world’s population looks good in swimwear. The rest of us look like a piece of pork shoved into one of those string nets they wrap around them to stop them falling apart during cooking.
The .012 per cent who do look good in swimmers are busy posing for Sports
Illustrated covers or have the Victoria’s Secret show coming up, so they’re not going to be coming to your 30th.
Do us all a favour and reconsider the venue so we can wear our Spanx, because we don’t have the metabolism of a 20-year-old any more.
Anyone who says they have never peed in a pool is taking the piss. We’ve all peed in a pool. Probably more than once … or twice.
Some of us may not have done it since we were three; some of us have had more recent indiscretions.
I’m not about to reveal which category I fall into, but you can probably guess.
Once you start mixing
alcohol with crippling bodyimage issues, you’ll find nobody is that keen to leave the pool to go and relieve themselves.
We’ll all be swimming in a disgusting, urine-filled cesspit, and I don’t think I have to point out the implications that could have for ear and eye infections.
Of course, if anyone is suffering from athlete’s foot, it will do their little trotters the world of good.
You’ve kindly offered to pop a small bar tab on to kick the night off, but then it’s a cash bar, which is totally fine. Except where are we going to put our wallets?
Start a bar tab and fix it up at the end, you say. No siree, Bob. The reason I use cash when I go out is so I know that once my wallet is empty, I need to stop ordering Jager Bombs and go home.
The first time I used PayPass for an entire evening, I was certain I’d been robbed.
However, CCTV of The Beat revealed it was in fact me, not a robber, tapping willy-nilly and spending my rent money.
I can’t afford to be shouting an entire pool Jager Bombs, but that’s exactly what I’ll do if I’m drunk.
“Put ’em on the tab, Smithy!”, I’ll yell.
I have a very particular method for working out when I need to stop drinking or hit the glasses of water.
One is an empty wallet, the other is my dancing.
I allow myself one trip on the dance floor before I pack it in, and if I start trying to swing around poles, microphone stands or pot plants, my friends know to immediately send me on my merry way.
You can’t get an accurate reading of how drunk you are in a swim-up bar because there is no dancing and no walking.
You’re completely weightless when you’re in the water, which certainly has its benefits, but trying to drag yourself out after 46 vodkas is like trying to lug around a bag of cement.
With limited upper-body strength, I’m usually forced to slump up on the side and kind of roll out of a pool rather than pull myself up like a James Bond girl. It’s a very dangerous situation, and I’d hate to see someone* (*me) sue you for negligence.
Speaking of danger, imagine the field day the pervy gropers would have! They’d be clutching at pieces of pork like it was going out of fashion. Unbearable. Look, it’s your special day, and if you go forth and have your 30th at a swim-up bar like a psychopath, I’ll be chugging back the Jager Bombs with the best of them. But I’ll whinge every step/ stroke of the way.
RAY OF SUNSHINE: Mia Wilkinson (main), who lost her arms and legs to sepsis and (inset) with dad Peter, mum Amy, sister Ellie and brother Max; and (far left) Mia leads as normal a life as possible and loves swimming; and (insets from top) Mia’s mum puts on her ‘uncomfortable’ legs; Mia can write and draw well; and with best friend Mia McCosker. Pictures: Adam Head