A global search is under way to find the cure for the rare brain disease afflicting once-bubbly Wairarapa schoolgirl Grace Yeats.
The Carterton 10-year-old is undergoing treatments never before performed in New Zealand as doctors battle to identify the mystery illness that struck her down three months ago.
High-profile supporters from Prime Minister John Key to All Black captain Richie McCaw are rallying behind the young girl and her family.
Doctors at Auckland's Starship children's hospital are seeking advice from neurologists in Australia and across the world in an effort to pinpoint just what kind of disease could have confined happy, healthy Grace to a hospital bed.
The girl who used to dance and play hockey is now unable to move or talk, and communicates with her family in "tears and smiles".
"We're still trying to work our way through it, we're still in the hospital here and there's no real change - she's still gravely ill," father Stephen Yeats said yesterday.
The St Mary's schoolgirl was flown to Starship in the early hours of May 16, after she had complained of a headache when she arrived home from school.
She has been in hospital ever since, with family constantly by her side.
The Carterton community has started the Grace Yeats Trust to raise money for Grace and her family, with the aim of raising $50,000 to fund her treatment and rehabilitation.
Trust spokesman Jonathan Tanner said while there was still no diagnosis, doctors had narrowed the brain disease down to two rare conditions.
Doctors now thought it was either acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem) - an immune mediated disease of the brain - or a metabolic brain disease.
Adem is known to occur after a viral infection.
Grace was having a New Zealand-first treatment for the acute seizures she was suffering as a result of her illness, with the medication baclofen being pumped directly into her spinal fluid.
"At the moment they still don't have a diagnosis, but they need to control the spasms because of the amount of pain it is causing," Mr Tanner said.
"The doctors think this is one of the worst things that they have ever had to deal with."
Despite the brain damage she had already suffered, Grace was completely aware of her surroundings and could squeeze her mum Tracy's hand in response to questions.
"She can only communicate with tears and smiles, they're her two main forms of communication," Mr Tanner said.
“She is not going to go home the same as she went up there, I think that's what everyone accepts now.
"The Grace that went up to Auckland is not going to be the same kid that comes back, but to what extent . . . no-one knows.”
The support for the family from around the country had been phenomenal, he said.
"It really helps to keep them going because what they are going through is not pleasant, basically."
Yesterday, the Masterton Lions and the Wairarapa police "Blue Knights" football teams held a charity match to raise money for Grace.
Detective Sergeant Barry Bysouth said about 150 people turned up in the wet weather in support, with around $5000 raised at an auction after the game.
Donated items included a Chiefs rugby jersey signed by the whole team, and a Crusaders jersey from McCaw.
"To be honest it really wasn't difficult to organise. We don't even know them [the family] but we've all got kids about the same age," Mr Bysouth said.
"What happened to Grace was a tragedy, and it could happen to anybody."
Mr Key had offered a morning or afternoon tea for auction, which the trust would soon be listing on Trade Me.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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