Katie defies odds to beat rare illness

editorial image
Share this article

Eight months after being struck down with a life-threatening rare strain of encephalitis a Colne woman is battling her way back to health.

Katie Chadwick (23) spent 110 days in critical care in hospital - most of that time in an induced coma from which her family never knew if she would wake up.

But she has defied all the odds and is making a miraculous recovery, much to the relief of her family who have been through months of hell since Katie, then 22, first complained of being ill just before heading off to Spain on holiday last October.

Her mum, Mrs Leisa Chadwick, who lives at Sweet Clough Farm, Colne, with her husband Paul and younger daughter Emilie (12), said: “She complained of earache and I just thought she was run down. But when she came home she said she just didn’t feel right.”

She was seen at two hospitals and by a GP before being admitted to the Royal Preston Hospital where, within two days, her condition had been diagnosed and she had been put into an induced coma to protect her brain from epileptic fits that she was suffering.

Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, is rare and affects only around 4,000 people in the UK each year. The inflammation had affected Katie’s immune system and was attacking her brain.

Mrs Chadwick said: “She was such an active healthy girl, but she kept being misdiagnosed and all the time she was getting worse. At Preston they diagnosed that she was suffering from autoimmune encephalitis.”

She was put on a course of chemotherapy and had her last treatment on Christmas Day. “At Christmas they really didn’t think she was going to pull through and if she did they had no idea what her condition would be,” said her mum. “she was very, very poorly, we didn’t think she’d survive.”

It was then, while sitting round Katie’s bedside, that the family decided they needed to do something to raise awareness of this dreadful condition.

They contacted the Encephalitis Society for help and advice and when Katie appeared to be pulling through they launched a fund-raising and awareness campaign for the society with all their friends in the local amateur theatre world where the family is well known.

Katie is still in hospital but has proved all the medical experts wrong and month by month her condition slowly improves.

Little by little she began to regain feeling in her hands, then arms, head and legs and then started to focus and regain her sight.

“She has had to learn to do everything all over again, talking, reading and writing, feeding and dressing herself.

“She is in a wheelchair at the moment and can’t walk but she is very determined.

“We still don’t know how far her recovery will go but there’s no reason why she shouldn’t walk again.

“They said her survival rate was very low, but she has survived and come through,” added her mum.

Since they launched the campaign friends and family have raised almost £10,000 for the Society and it continues with a concert on Friday, July 10th, at Pendle Hippodrome Theatre entitled “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow”.

The show is a tribute to Katie who took the lead role of Annie in “Annie the Musical” when she attended Primet High School.

Katie’s drama teacher at Primet, Howard Raw, will compere and there will be performances from Basics, Encore Dance School, Moorland International Ballet Elite, and the Hippodrome companies.

Katie’s family are members of the Hippodrome Theatre Company and Youth Theatre and she took part in many shows before becoming a student of the prestigious Hammond School, Chester, in 2007.

“We really want to thank everyone who has supported us through all this and everyone who has been fund-raising for the society,” said Mrs Chadwick.