Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

DIY snow therapy could be a lifesaver

Charlotte Currie with dad Mike. Photo / Doug Sherring
Charlotte Currie with dad Mike. Photo / Doug Sherring

A brave girl's love of skiing is helping combat a rare and deadly form of epilepsy.

Charlotte Currie, 4, suffers from Dravet syndrome, an incurable condition which affects one in 10 million.

She was diagnosed aged 6 months and not expected to live past two. Her dad Mike Currie, a former New Zealand rep skier, discovered regular trips to the Snowplanet indoor ski facility in Auckland kept her chronic fits at bay. He believes this is due to low temperatures and exercise.

"When Charlotte was born she was normal and healthy," Mike, a company director from Muriwai Beach, said. "But at 6 months she had a seizure at home that lasted more than three hours."

Mike, 41, believed his basic first aid skills saved her life.

"I knew I had to cool her down so I packed frozen food around her head until we got to Starship hospital," Mike said. "Along the way, Charlotte died on us twice."

After the diagnosis Mike did a paramedic course and started taking Rebecca to Snowplanet to keep her temperature down.

"She still takes medication to combat seizures and I carry an oxygen bottle and a defibrillator with me just in case," he said.

"But her condition has improved dramatically. She loves her skiing just like any other kid would."

The Curries, who have another daughter, Amelia, 7, hope their DIY snow therapy will keep Charlotte going until a cure for Dravet syndrome is found.

"Charlotte is very strong-willed and she is determined to attend school and live as normal a life as possible," said mum Cara.

Paediatric neurologist Dr Cynthia Sharpe said though there was no hard evidence the cool conditions controlled chronic epilepsy, Charlotte was improving.

"She is a brave little girl who has been through a lot."

* An extremely rare condition affecting infants who experience varied types of seizures.
* Symptoms begin in the first year and usually peak at five months. Boys are twice as affected as girls.
* Child sufferers are at risk of serious seizures due to illness, tiredness or over-excitement.
* There is no cure but it can be controlled with medication.

- Herald on Sunday

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