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.

Dress code

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.

Wal­let ac­cess

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.


Re­spon­si­ble ser­vice

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

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