Toddler contracts serious E.coli infection on family farm

Grace Dheda with mum Megan.
ARHT

Grace Dheda with mum Megan.

Eight months on from a rescue helicopter dash to Starship children's hospital, two-year-old Grace Dheda is enjoying being back on her family's farm - even though it nearly killed her.

In March, Grace and her family were savouring rural life in Wellsford.

Mum Megan and Dad Kirin were planning their up-coming wedding. 

That all came to a sudden halt when their daughter began to show signs of illness.

After two days of vomiting and diarrhoea, a doctor diagnosed a tummy bug.

Grace was sent home and prescribed plenty of fluids, Megan says.

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At home Grace played on the deck like her normal self, but collapsed at bedtime.

"I was sitting down and giving her a cuddle when she suddenly started twitching and went all floppy and blue," Megan says.

Grace was rushed back to the doctors.

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"They put her on oxygen straight away. She'd been unconscious for about 45 minutes and they were starting to worry about potential brain damage."

Given the severity of the situation and the closest ambulance an hour away, the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was called.

Grace and Megan were ferried to a helipad and arrived to see the chopper landing.

"It was such a relief to see the helicopter," Megan says.

Intensive Care Flight Paramedic, Bruce Kerr, was on the helicopter and remembers finding Grace in a serious condition.

"Grace had initially been quite pale and had suffered twitching in her arms and legs. For a little child, that is very serious and with seizure-type activity, things can deteriorate quickly," he says.

Kerr monitored the then one-year-old, making sure she didn't have another seizure and Grace was rushed to the Resus Room at Starship for immediately life-threatening illnesses 21 minutes later.

She suffered another three minute long seizure and was admitted to a ward.

Grace spent nine days in hospital and underwent two blood transfusions.

"She was a totally different child," Megan recalls.

"She didn't eat for most of the time she was there. She was like a zombie.

 "At first nobody knew what was wrong with her and why she was having these seizures. It wasn't until a few days before we left the hospital that we found out she had contracted E-Coli and HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome)."

HUS is a severe complication of the E.coli infection that can lead to kidney failure.

At first it was thought that Grace had contracted the bacterial infection through the water supply, however this was later tested and found to be normal.

It is now believed that she contracted it via the farm animals.

Now back home, Megan is happy Grace is almost back to her normal self, though she does still require monthly blood tests, as she could still develop kidney problems when she is older.

Two months after their ordeal, Megan and Kirin were able to have their wedding and are now back to normal and enjoying life on the farm.

Although now, Megan has noticed a change in her own behaviour.

"We've got cows here on the farm and I don't like Grace going anywhere near them. The doctor told me I have 'parental anxiety,'" she laughs.

"I love the farm life, but I'm a bit paranoid now and have about 20 bottles of sanitiser around the place."

The Helicopter Trust is actively fundraising at present in order to purchase three new ventilators for use on their helicopters and in their Rapid Response Vehicle.

If you could spare a few dollars to help purchase the important medical equipment, and help more patients like Grace, see their Christmas Appeal .

 - Stuff

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