Survival a stroke of luck
Learning to walk again after beating odds
MARNIE Clapham is learning to walk again at the age of 20 but, considering she was given less than a 1 per cent chance of survival when she suffered a massive stroke at 16, it is an amazing achievement.
Marnie was a fit and active horse-loving teenager when it happened. An arteriovenous malformation — or faulty blood vessel — led to a brain haemorrhage.
Mother Donna Sedgman sat by her bedside for months as she clung to life in the paediatric intensive care unit at The Children’s Hospital Westmead.
“She was non-responsive, we just didn’t know if she would live. After a few weeks she could move an eye but she couldn’t move anything else,” Ms Segdman said.
Marnie spent months in ICU. She needed a tracheotomy and spent another nine months in the Brain Injury Unit.
When she left hospital in April 2015, 15 months after her stroke, she was confined to a wheelchair.
Stroke happens to almost 100 people a day and a third of those are actually under 65.
Every year as many as 13 children in every 100,000 will have an episode and it is among the top 10 causes of death in childhood, with the highest mortality in the first 12 months of life.
Marnie’s dream to get back on a horse has driven her desire to learn how to walk again.
For four months she has been undergoing intensive two-hourly rehabilitation sessions three times a week. At the beginning, she needed equipment and help to walk. Now, she can support herself. Physiotherapist Nicholas Young from Concentric Rehabilitation in Ashfield said Marnie had made extraordinary progress.
“The technical term is neuroplasticity. With enough training, other parts of the brain can start to take over but it takes a lot of repetition,” Mr Young said.
Marnie still has some difficulty speaking but proudly told The Sunday Telegraph that walking again, even with a frame, has given her back her independence.
“I couldn’t walk at all and now I am walking with a frame and I can start doing things for myself,” she said.
And she has managed to get back on her horse.
“It’s unbelievable, she has returned to riding and her longterm memory on the horse takes over and she has a beautiful position,” Ms Sedgman said.
Her next goal is to go the Paralympics to compete in equestrian dressage in Tokyo in 2022.
Marnie with mum Donna at her rehab session. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Marnie before her stroke.