A Levin girl who nearly died from a stroke three years ago continues to defy the odds, this time with a medal for finishing a 5km fun run.

When Emma Hutchison was just five she suffered a massive stroke in her sleep that nearly killed her. It was only fast work from her attentive mother Heather that saved her life.

"When a five year old wakes up in the middle of the night you don't think it is a stroke. You think they might be having a bad dream," she said.

"But she wouldn't tell me what was wrong and had lost the ability to speak. I went to stand her up and she was dragging her foot behind her, so I knew it wasn't right."

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Emergency services and doctors moved quickly and within hours Emma was in theatre. Heather said she was told they were just in time.

Unsure of the effects of the stroke, amazingly Emma was trying to walk again within weeks after surgery, albeit with extensive physiotherapy treatment to help with her coordination and balance.

While initially she was able to walk again, in the coming years walking became progressively more difficult.

Complications from the stroke left Emma with a long road to recovery and as her body grew there were tendons restricting that meant walking in the last year had become difficult.

Since the stroke Emma had to wear braces on her leg at night to keep them straight. The tendons were constricting and that was forcing her leg to twist and giving her pain.

"Watching her struggle was really difficult," she said.

Emma became reliant on a wheelchair and her mother credits a specialist who immediately set in motion steps to have an operation so she could walk unaided again.

"It was great. It was brilliant," she said.

After an operation at Starship Hospital in December last year her leg was placed in a cast following the surgery, and it was a anxious wait to see how her leg would be when the cast was removed earlier this year.

"It has just gotten stronger and stronger. I honestly didn't expect it to be like this, not like this. The surgeon did an awesome job," she said.

Emma had shown an ability to overcome odds from the beginning. Mrs Hutchison said when she fell pregnant with Emma a 20-week scan had revealed a heart abnormality.

As a nine-month-old baby Emma had heart surgery, and another heart operation when she was two.

"We thought she was okay. The stroke came out of nowhere," she said.

She also had an operation to insert a permanent pacemaker for her heart that would need new batteries in two years, requiring further surgery.

But at the moment her mother said Emma was living in the moment. Her recovery had been so miraculous that she had the confidence to enter a 5km walk at the Great Forest Marathon at Waitarere Beach a few weeks ago.

Mrs Hutchison said Emma's brother Lucas was full of encouragement for his younger sister during the event and at no stage did he piggy-back her.

The 11 year old even thought of an incentive to keep his sister's spirits high. At every 1km mark he gave her a lollie as a reward to keep her going.