Leah’s dream granted

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - REX­INE HAWES

A rare ill­ness sug­gested a dif­fi­cult life was ahead for Waikato girl Leah Pa­trick.

She was di­ag­nosed with an auto im­mune disease called acute dis­sem­i­nated en­cephalomyeli­tis (ADEM), which af­fected her brain and spine.

The dif­fi­cult news came in 2012, a few weeks be­fore her fifth birth­day.

But five years on and the Mata­mata Chris­tian School stu­dent is about to step onto the court for her first netball sea­son.

It’s been a mirac­u­lous turn­around. The disease al­most took her life, she still has daily strug­g­less, but is now an en­thu­si­as­tic player on the Com­bined Mata­mata Chris­tian School’s netball team.

What makes Leah’s first year of netball more ex­cit­ing, is that her school is a re­cip­i­ent of the ANZ Dream De­liv­ery.

The pack­age in­cludes high per­for­mance netball train­ing equip­ment such as bibs, gear bags and balls.

Leah’s mum Kushla ap­plied to ANZ for the pack­age.

She said the school’s old sports equip­ment was in need of re­place­ment.

‘‘It’s such amazing tim­ing to have this great new gear for the team,’’ she said.

‘‘Leah couldn’t wait to get back play­ing with her friends, she just loves netball.

‘‘She spent her own pocket money on a new netball so she can prac­tise at home.’’

Kushla, who en­joys cheer­ing on the team of the side­lines ev­ery week, says the team play well to­gether and have prac­tised hard.

Only one of the eight team mem­bers has played netball be­fore.

‘‘They have moved up a grade this sea­son, and that’s the re­sult of all the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion to their sport,’’ said Kushla.

Kushla says just watch­ing Leah run around on the court is tes­ta­ment to how far the young girl has come.

In 2012, Kushla knew some­thing wasn’t right af­ter Leah con­sis­tently woke up with ei­ther a headache or a sore back.

But doc­tors at A and E kept send­ing her home, say­ing she had the flu.

Hours af­ter a GP con­sul­ta­tion, Leah col­lapsed and couldn’t move.

She was trans­ferred from hos­pi­tal in Whakatane, where the fam­ily was liv­ing, to Star­ship in Auck­land for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. An MRI iden­ti­fied the disease. In­stead of the im­mune sys­tem at­tack­ing what­ever bug her body has, it at­tacks her brain and spine.

‘‘She was given steroids to kill her im­mune sys­tem,’’ said Kushla.

‘‘We al­most lost her. We are very, very blessed. We know she is a mir­a­cle.’’

Kushla says doc­tors sug­gested she would re­cover, but not to what ex­tent.

‘‘A year later they couldn’t be­lieve she was walk­ing.’’

And now she is run­ning and jump­ing on the netball court.

‘‘She loves it, rain, hail or shine, she wants to be there, she doesn’t want to miss a prac­tice or game.’’

Al­though Kushla says it’s been hard at times to let Leah go and play sport, she doesn’t hold her back.

‘‘It’s not fair to wrap her in a bub­ble and say you can’t do things.

‘‘Just be­cause her im­mune sys­tem’s not great or she gets fa­tigue eas­ily doesn’t mean she can’t try.’’

REX­INE HAWES

Mata­mata Chris­tian School were the re­cip­i­ents of an ANZ Dream De­liv­ery pack­age. Stu­dents Grace Madanawa, Emily Lam­bert, Leah Si­mons-Pa­trick, Daisy Preb­ble, Heike Jansen, Rakapa Ra­pana, Nola Strauss (ab­sent Baliegh Wil­liamson, from St Joseph’s Catholic School) will en­joy the ad­van­tages of the pack­age.

REX­INE HAWES

Leah Pa­trick is en­joy­ing her first stint play­ing netball.

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