Hannah, 10, fought her way back from serious brain infection to learn to walk again

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First published on the Herald Sun by Brigid O’Connell, 25 February 2017

HANNAH Maxwell-Wright is a fighter.

The 10-year-old has had to learn how to walk again after a serious infection in her brain left her in a coma for eight days.

Her parents Danae and Toby have been stunned at how well she has bounced back since the operation that saved her life.

“Aside from her short hair and scar on her forehead and head, you wouldn’t know she’s been through such a serious ordeal,” Ms Maxwell-Wright said.

“That fighting spirit will see her go a long way in her life.”

Hannah had been to multiple GPs and emergency department doctors in August last year, complaining of recurring fevers and facial pain.

Doctors told the family that it was simply a virus.

But under her skull an infection was spreading, creating clusters of poison deep in her brain.

It wasn’t until a paediatrician saw how she needed to be propped up to walk across the hospital car park that this doctor twigged that her weak and drooping left side suggested damage to the right side of her brain.

Hannah was rushed to Monash Children’s Hospital by ambulance.

She was before neurosurgeon Chris Xenos two hours later.

When he opened her skull, such was the severity of the infection that it was as if cream cheese had been spread across her brain. There were multiple abscesses, some as big as golf balls.

“When it reaches the brain, it becomes super critically urgent,” Mr Xenos said. “If it happens to this severe extent it can be fatal, or leave them with paralysis or compromised brain function.”

It is likely the infection sneaked in through a small defect in her front sinus cavity.

After the surgery she underwent a two further operations to remove as many pockets of infection as possible from her brain and sinuses. Antibiotics were also needed to clear the deep pockets of infection the scalpel could not reach.

When she woke from the coma, she could barely move her left side.

Hannah’s fight back to full strength began. First she worked on wriggling her toes. Next, her fingers.

“We described it to Hannah as being on a bridge and trying to traverse across to the other side of a big canyon. Each achievement she made in hospital helped get her to her end goal,” Ms Maxwell-Wright said.

Despite loosing 8kg in hospital, when Hannah was asked to do 10 repetitions and she would do 20.

When she was still struggling to walk, her physiotherapist suggested she challenge herself to take part in the Walk for Monash Children’s Hospital. It was just the goal she needed after spending more than two months in hospital, including three weeks in intensive care.

Hannah’s family will join her in the fundraiser for the new hospital next Sunday at Jells Park.

“She’s been though an experience many adults couldn’t cope with,” said Ms Maxwell-Wright.

“She just wants to do all the normal things that she enjoys.”

Photo: Hannah Maxwell-Wright, 10 with dad Toby, sister Naomi, 8, and mum Danae. Picture: Christopher Chan

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