Sur­vival a stroke of luck

Learn­ing to walk again af­ter beat­ing odds

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

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.

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