Baby Charlotte comes home

By By REBECCA WALSH

Five months after she lost parts of her limbs to meningococcal disease,
Charlotte Cleverley-Bisman is finally home - just in time to celebrate
her first birthday.

The
smiling youngster, wearing a white fairy costume with purple trim, was
welcomed back to Waiheke Island yesterday at a birthday celebration
with family, friends and supporters.

It was a big day. A pink
and blue angel cake with gigantic wings took pride of place among the
sausages and falafel patties. And among a flurry of camera clicks,
Charlotte, revelling in the attention, buried her face in a new soft
toy, biting its nose.

The one-year-old, whose battle with
meningococcal disease resulted in partial amputations of her arms and
legs, has spent the past three months in rehabilitation at the Wilson
Home in Takapuna.

Her father, Perry Bisman, said it was great
to have her home and the family were looking forward to "getting back
to a normality of sorts".

"She's healthy and happy, and every
day she is smiling we are happy," he said. "She's obviously got a lot
of inner strength and the will to get on with it."

Surgeons were pleased with her progress and have said children who lose limbs can do surprisingly well in the long term.

Charlotte,
who has artificial arms and legs, had learned to roll over and was
saying "mumma" and "dadda". Her anatomically correct artificial legs
were being modified to provide better balance.

Every day she wore a pressure suit, like those worn by burns patients, to help smooth out the scar tissue.

Pam
Cleverley said her daughter had come a long way and could now put a cup
to her mouth with both artificial hands. "She's doing famously."

Among
those at the birthday celebration was Tima Uluvula, who lost her son
Junior to meningococcal disease soon after Charlotte became ill. The
two families have become good friends and Mrs Uluvula said although she
had a "little cry" when she saw Charlotte - "it brought back memories"
- she was pleased to share the celebrations.

Despite the
publicity over Charlotte's case, Mr Bisman said there had been a low
turn-out for the meningococcal vaccine on the island and he urged
parents to get their children vaccinated. "It's a synthetic vaccine.
You can't catch the disease from it. The worst thing is a sore arm - or
no arm if you don't have it."

Dr Carol Smylie of the Ostend
Medical Centre said since the programme started two weeks ago, half the
pre-schoolers enrolled with the practice had been vaccinated.
Traditionally vaccination rates were not high on the island, where many
"alternative lifestylers" opposed vaccination in general.

Mr
Bisman said the family were grateful for the support they had received,
including building work on their home. With the birthday celebrations
over they were looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home, "just us".

 

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