Leah’s dream granted
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.’’
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.
Leah Patrick is enjoying her first stint playing netball.