After more than three weeks paralysed and unconscious, the last of a family stricken by the potentially-fatal botulism toxin has opened her eyes.
Husband and wife Shibu Kochummen, 35, and Subi Babu, 32, and Kochummen's 62-year-old mother, Alekutty Daniel, fell gravely ill at their Waikato home on November 10 after eating wild boar suspected to be contaminated.
While still severely impaired, Kochummen and Daniel regained consciousness earlier this week but it was not until yesterday morning that Babu opened her eyes.
Friend Joji Varghese, who knows the family through church, was hugely relieved to receive a call this morning conveying the good news. Babu, a nurse, had immediately tried to ask about her children and husband's wellbeing, he said.
"It was difficult to understand because her tongue was slurring so much, but she got the message across.
"I'm just so happy. I'm really just trying to get all my thoughts into place: I'm happy-confused," he said.
The couple's daughters, 7 and 1, came to visit and Kochummen was taken by wheelchair to his wife's bedside. The family was overjoyed to be reunited, Varghese said.
It was particularly important for the 7-year-old, who had been deeply traumatised to see her parents and grandmother in such a state.
Kochummen, a power tool salesman, could now speak properly but still severely physically impaired.
"The biggest thing going through his mind at the moment is how long it's going to take for things to get back to normal again. There's also some fear about whether this will leave any lasting problems."
His mother, who was in the best state of the three having eaten the least amount of the infected meat, was desperate to get back home.
"It's very difficult for her because she only speaks her mother tongue and just can't wait to get out of the hospital."
All three were still unable to move without the aid of family or hospital staff.
The family moved to New Zealand from India about five years ago.
Babu's brother and Kochummen's sister travelled from India to be with them over a week ago, but the sister was so overwhelmed by seeing her family so incapacitated it was decided it was best she return home.
With the school holidays coming up, the two children were going to travel to India to stay with their grandparents for a while to give their parents some time to recover.
"Of course we're very happy that they've come around early but how much longer it will take to get back to normality will depend on how much it has affected each one of them," Varghese said.
The next step was to get the family's bodies functioning again, probably followed by a lengthy period of rehabilitation.
There was also some question about whether ACC would assist the family.
Varghese and the family praised the staff at Waikato Hospital for so capably managing to treat the rare and difficult to diagnose disease.