Fairlane Tui and grandmother Yvonne Tui are nearing the end of an 11-year medical journey.Photo Lucy Smith / Daily Mercury
Fairlane Tui and grandmother Yvonne Tui are nearing the end of an 11-year medical journey.Photo Lucy Smith / Daily Mercury Lucy Smith

Decade-long medical journey finally ends for Fairlane

LIKE many eleven-year-olds, Fairlane Tui has a carefully written wish list.

She wants a brother. With six younger sisters and a sibling on the way, that might come true.

She wanted a dog, and Coco the puppy recently filled that gap.

Now Fairlane is about to get her biggest wish - her neck brace will be removed in less than four weeks.

She'll be able to swim in a pool, wash her hair (although her grandma and carer Yvonne Tui is "naughty” and does that despite doctors' orders) and have a shower for the first time in a year after October 17.

It will be the end of an era - the Mackay girl has survived a decade-long medical journey.

Fairlane was born healthy in New Zealand, but contracted life-threatening bacterial meningitis when she was three months old. She spent the next couple of years in and out of hospital, undergoing numerous surgeries.

By the time she was seven, she'd moved to Mackay and was suffering from spine curvature, a condition called severe Kyphoscolios. A rod was surgically inserted into her back.

In November last year, she had a restrictive and occasionally painful "traction” brace attached to her body. She had to drag a weighted contraption behind her, wherever she went.

In February, it was replaced with a neck brace, her "halo”. During the brace replacement, Fairlane underwent spinal surgery to have a rod permanently fixed to her vertebrae.

Then, something terrifying happened - she suffered a stroke and went into a coma.

"Two to three weeks later, she came out of the coma on her own. My God, I saw her twitch,” Mrs Tui said.

"The doctors in ICU came running and then there was a twitch again.

"Two days later, she turned to her side... It was a really emotional time, but we were over the moon. It was like a huge weight had been lifted.”

That surgery will hopefully be Fairlane's last major operation. The rod in her back should last a lifetime.

Fairlane weighs 28kg. She's shorter than most 11-year-olds, and while her limbs may grow, her torso is unlikely to.

Without having undergone spinal treatment, Fairlane wouldn't be walking today.

Mrs Tui said her granddaughter had been inundated with community support - from the Presbyterian Church, from the Lions Club (Mrs Tui is the president of the Mackay Host Lions Pacific Island Community), the Cook Island community, hospital staff and staff at Beaconsfield State School.

One teacher, Miss Randall, visited Fairlane in hospital in Brisbane and the family home in Mackay.

Mrs Tui said her granddaughter was remarkably resilient and rarely complained. After surgeries, she's had to re-learn to walk and after her coma, she had to re-learn to eat.

She couldn't participate in sport, even though she wanted to, and she'd had to "put up with people staring at her”.

"She's been a real inspiration to a lot of people in Mackay,” Mrs Tui said.

"She's not the sooky-cry type kid. She's a bit weird like that, most kids would be whinging.

"I say 'You can cry if you want'. She says, 'I don't want to cry, what for?'”

Instead, she's danced. Fairlane performed traditional Cook Islands dance solo at Pasifika earlier in the month and has performed at retirement homes.

As soon as Fairlane's neck has strengthened after the removal of her "halo”, Mrs Tui will organise a pool party for all the friends, hospital staff, church friends and family who have supported and looked up to the little girl.


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