The young determined South African has started at her new school and exceeded her teachers’ expectations of the progress a child can make after a brain haemorrhage injury.
Johannesburg, South Africa (14 March 2023) – A determined 13-year-old girl who suddenly suffered a life-threatening brain haemorrhage due to a congenital vascular condition is regaining her independence a year later with ongoing multidisciplinary support and therapy and the encouragement of her family.
“Demi’s excellent progress demonstrates what can be achieved for people after a brain injury and is cause for hope for those who suffer a brain bleed or a traumatic head injury,” says Prof Andre Mochan, a neurologist who practises at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital, ahead of World Head Injury Awareness Day on 20 March.
“When Demi collapsed out of the blue and was rushed to hospital, we didn’t know what was happening to her and at first, they weren’t sure if she would make it. It was an extremely tough time for us,” recalls her father, Damien Blaauw.
Doctors discovered that an arteriovenous malformation [AVM], an abnormal bunching of the blood vessels, had suddenly burst and started filling the left hemisphere of her brain with blood. Initial management and control of the bleeding were performed surgically at the first hospital she was taken to; Demi was then transferred to Netcare Milpark Hospital for further specialised care. This involved endovascular cure of the AVM by interventional radiologist Dr M Valli Omar. Demi was under the intensive care of neurologist Dr Pradeep Rowji, who Damien says has become Demi’s “great friend”.
“Initially, when Demi came to us at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital, she was unable to speak and had great difficulty understanding. She was almost completely paralysed on the right side of her body and unable to walk and the haemorrhage also affected her vision,” Prof Mochan says.
“When our daughter arrived at the hospital, a plan was already in place, starting with assessments and the genuinely caring team developed a whole therapy plan around her needs. I was blown away; every week, we could see the difference in her. Demi pushed on and showed such improvement that her rehabilitation plan needed to be constantly adjusted to keep up with her,” Damien adds.
During her stay at the hospital, Demi underwent intensive, comprehensive therapy from a multidisciplinary team, including a rehabilitation neurologist, psychologist, physiotherapist, speech and occupational therapists, social worker, and experienced nursing staff to support her and her family.
“Gradually, Demi started to recover her understanding until she was eventually able to form words, and the weakness on the right side of her body began to improve. Since being discharged, she has continued with therapies on an outpatient basis. Demi’s determination is paying off, and her speech and mobility are considerably better. Demi has come such a long way in the past year, and we foresee that she will continue to make progress,” Prof Mochan says.
“My daughter is a very determined individual, and she won’t allow the situation to sideline her even though she’s had this big setback,” Damien says.
A patient’s successful return to their home after rehabilitation is an internationally recognised measure of the success of a physical rehabilitation programme.
In the year October 2021 to September 2022, 89.7% of patients admitted to Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital with a head injury were discharged home.
“Demi has started at her new school and exceeded her teachers’ expectations of the progress a child can make after a brain haemorrhage injury. Demi developed such a close relationship with the rehabilitation therapists that when we do the exercises with her at home, she gets a little impatient with us sometimes,” her father says, laughing.
“With the correct medical attention and therapy from the start, neurological rehabilitation can help to lessen the physical and cognitive deficits associated with brain injury, making a great difference to the person’s functionality, confidence and quality of life. For the individual and their family, each step towards a greater degree of independence is hugely significant,” Prof Mochan concludes.
On the 24th of March 2023, Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital will be hosting a virtual head injury awareness event aimed at health professionals, highlighting the journey of survivors and the role of multidisciplinary teamwork in securing the best possible outcomes for each person in a caring, family-centred approach to rehabilitation. To join the meeting on the day from 1 pm to 3 pm, please click bit.ly/3kJjP29.