As little Mia Wilkinson takes her first tentative steps, steely determination flashes in her eyes.
‘I don’t want you to hold me,’ the five-year-old quadruple amputee instructs a hovering occupational therapist.
As Mia slowly, but surely, makes her way across the room on her new prosthetic legs, her face breaks into a huge smile.
‘Good job!’ her thrilled mum Amy says, bursting with pride from the sidelines
The Wilkinsons were just an ordinary Aussie family until their world came crashing down on Friday 13 October last year.
It all started when Mia complained of a stomach ache. Doctors initially put it down to flu. But when Amy, 38, noticed a faint purple rash on Mia’s legs, she decided to take her back to hospital.
‘They say if it’s a rash that doesn’t blanch, that’s not good.
I pushed on it and it went away. I thought it’s probably nothing, but I drove her in.’
That decision saved Mia’s life.
‘We were in such a tight window that she survived,’ Amy, 38, says. At hospital, Mia deteriorated rapidly. Struggling to breathe, she was placed in an induced coma and incubated. But during that procedure, her heart stopped.
‘I yelled out: “Peter we are losing her.” I just remember standing there watching, helpless. You can’t do anything, you are just hoping your child doesn’t die,’ Amy weeps.
Thankfully, Mia made it through the night. But she had a long battle ahead.
Tests revealed the plucky schoolgirl was suffering from Influenza A, influenza B, RSV, and invasive strep A bacterial infection – which had resulted in sepsis – a serious blood infection, which can lead to organ failure and even death.
‘It was a minute-by-minute proposition,’ says Amy.
The doting Brisbane couple, also parents to Ellie, seven, and Max, two, then noticed that Mia’s hands and feet were turning dark purple. As Mia grew stronger, the colour started coming back, filling Amy and Peter, 40, with renewed hope. But sadly their relief didn’t last – Mia’s fingertips remained ‘black and hard.’
‘We just watched that blackness creep back up towards her elbows over the next few days,’ Peter says, breaking down.
Their fears were confirmed when a bone scan revealed there was no blood circulating past Mia’s mid-forearm and mid-calf.
Breaking the news to Mia broke Amy and Peter’s hearts into a million pieces.
‘We told her she’s got a bug, and it had made her really sick. It had made her hands and feet sick as well, and the doctors could not make her hands and feet better,’ says Peter.
‘Before the operation, she said: ‘I don’t want them to take my hands’. ‘We said: “We don’t want them to either, but if they don’t take them you will get sick again and we don’t want to loose you.’’
After the operation, on November 10, Mia worried she wouldn’t be able to play with her beloved big sister, Ellie, as she always had done.
Peter recalls: ‘She was in bed and she just started crying.
‘She said: “How am I going to play with Ellie?” I said: “We’ll get you some new hands. They won’t be like your old hands, but we’ll find new ways of doing things and new ways of playing games.”’
Incredibly, Mia adapted very quickly. By the time her legs were amputated on January 3, Amy and Peter noticed their little girl seemed to have turned a huge corner.
‘She just started smiling more,’ says Peter. In the early weeks, therapy for Mia involved blowing into a party whistle to build up strength in her lungs.
‘It gradually progressed to popping bubbles with her arms or her legs, and building cubbies in her hospital room which encouraged her to wriggle around.
‘It was all just play. She’d smile and laugh. She thought it was awesome fun,’ Peter says.
Ten months on, Mia is back
at school and refuses to let anything hold her back. Like many other five-year-olds, she loves drawing, building with Lego and playing cheeky tricks on her unsuspecting parents.
‘She is so eager to use her prosthetic legs,’ Peter smiles. ‘You have to keep telling her to slow down and wait for us. We are still getting stuff out of the car and she’s already racing off.
‘Mia doesn’t think about herself as a person who is limited in things she can do.
‘She blows me away. Whatever it is she’s doing, she just gets into it 100 per cent. She’s so happy, she’s always smiling and laughing.’
Mia’s family are sharing her story in order to raise awareness about sepsis. ‘You know your children and you know when things aren’t OK.
‘When you get that feeling, take them to hospital and ask: “Could it be sepsis?” That is the extra step that could save your child and save their limbs,’ Peter says.
Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by the body’s response to an infection.
Rapid breathing and
To help Mia’s loved ones raise funds for her ongoing treatment click here