Girl with mystery illness going home

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013
Grace Yeats
IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE: Grace Yeats was transferred to Wairarapa Hospital on Tuesday, nine months after being struck down with a debilitating mystery illness.

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A Carterton girl left unable to walk or talk by a brain illness has returned to the Wairarapa.

Ten-year-old Grace Yeats was transferred by air ambulance to Wairarapa Hospital yesterday from Starship children's hospital in Auckland.

She has been there since being struck down in May last year with the rare illness which has irreversibly ravaged the part of her brain responsible for movement.

Although the former St Mary's pupil cannot move, doctors believe her mental capacities and memory remain untouched.

Jonathan Tanner, spokesman for the Grace Yeats Trust, said yesterday's move was a step closer to getting Grace back to her family home, but was also a recognition that no more treatment was available.

"The reality is that Starship is a hospital for treating people, and unfortunately there are no current treatments available."

Since Grace was taken to hospital hours after complaining of a sore throat, her mother, Tracy, has maintained a vigil by her daughter's bed.

Her father Stephen, sister Safiyah and brothers Finn and Angus have regularly travelled to Auckland to be with her.

Mr Tanner said: "If you walk into the room, she bursts into a grin, and if she's with her family, she's much calmer . . . she clearly recognises them.

"That's the greatest thing that comes from this, she can regularly see her family."

Mr Tanner said next came the "huge job" of renovating the family home for Grace and her carers.

That would involve everything from putting in a new bathroom to widening doorways. A new vehicle with a wheelchair hoist would also be needed.

Mr Tanner said Grace's family has asked for privacy and asked wellwishers not to visit the hospital.

"[The family] understand that people will want to see Grace, but at this stage they need some space in what is a very stressful time for them."

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- The Dominion Post

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