Carterton schoolgirl Grace Yeats today starts intensive treatment to destroy an infection that could have triggered the mystery brain disease she has been battling since May.
Grace was flown to Starship Hospital in May, where she has remained bedridden and unable to walk or talk.
Her mum, Tracy, is at her bedside and her father, Stephen, sister, Safiyah, and brothers Finn and Angus have also travelled to Auckland for stints with Grace.
Spokesman Jonathan Tanner said the plasmapheresis treatment Grace starts today will remove, filter and return all of her blood during a procedure that lasts five days.
She will be kept in intensive care during the course of the treatment, he said, which aims to rid her of any underlying infections "that may still be lurking about".
"The treatment is serious for anybody, especially for someone in Grace's predicament, and while any existing damage will remain unchanged, the risk of ongoing infection will be eliminated."
Mr Tanner said the latest round of treatment will hopefully clear the way for direct treatment of the seizures that Grace is suffering although any damage already caused is unlikely to be reversed. The as-yet-undiagnosed disease also has left the 10-year-old St Mary's schoolgirl spasmodically racked with seizures caused by severe dystonia, or muscle contractions.
Doctors says the most likely diagnosis is the brain disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis or Adem, which struck in the wake of a throat infection Grace contracted in May. Several Carterton families banded together to form the Grace Yeats Trust, which has raised more than $50,000 along with other charity drives to help pay for ongoing costs the Yeats family are bearing and the remodelling of their home ready for Grace's eventual return.
Mr Tanner said the primary goal of the family and trust is still to bring Grace home to Carterton although the initial medical advice remains the same that her stay in Starship Hospital could last up to two years.
"It will still be months rather than weeks before she comes home," he said.
"The family were originally told at least a year and possibly up to two years. None of that's changed."
A Glitz and Glamour Ball for Grace Yeats, which will feature a silent auction and raffle, is to be held at the Masterton Town Hall on November 17.
Tickets to the ball cost $40. For more information and tickets call Erena at 021 064 6989, Richard at 027 370 1216 or Jackie at 027 378 8030.