An 11-year-old Whakatane girl struck down by a rare brain injury while on holiday in the United States is hoping to be home in two weeks, her father says.

Alyssa Ledbetter was with family, including mum Tarnya, originally from Hamilton, and dad, Dave, swimming in a Seattle's Lake Washington when she got out, complaining of a severe headache, blurry vision and numbness in her legs.

Her father, Dave, told the Herald today that it was a miracle his daughter has so far appeared to not have suffered any long-term injury and was still able to talk and walk.

He knew that something was not right and was carrying her to a nearby lifeguard tower for help when an off-duty emergency doctor, Dr Brown, came rushing over.


"She came out of the water complaining of numbness and stroke-like symptoms ... she sat down and we noticed she didn't look well and she said how she needed help really quickly."

They took her to the lifeguard station where continued to deteriorate rapidly; she lost control of her bodily functions, having seizures and her vision worsening so badly she couldn't see her parents.

She was taken to Harborview Medical Center where eight medical staff were on hand to greet her and take her into surgery, to drill a hole and help relieve pressure on her brain.

Ledbetter said they soon discovered she had two Arteriovenous Malformations (AVM) in the frontal cortex of her brain.

"It's a pretty random event, we had no idea that she had this. It's not genetic and only happens in 1 per cent of the population."

The AVM saw her brain haemorrhage - blood vessels in her brain rupturing and causing bleeding on the brain.

Alyssa was in intensive care for 17 days, the paediatric ward for three days before getting released. However, that night she relapsed and required more emergency surgery before being released again yesterday.

Ledbetter, who is originally from Seattle, said they were fortunate to not only be staying with family there - his mother - but her healthcare had also been covered in the family's policy with AA Travel Insurance.


The money raised through their givealittle page would go towards her specialised Gamma Knife Surgery, repairing her damaged blood cells.

The surgery, which is not available in New Zealand, involves surgeons shooting gamma rays at the malformations, which causes scarring and eventually seals up the blood vessels to stop them leaking.

American doctors had determined that open brain surgery was too dangerous as the AVM was too deep inside her brain.

The Gamma Knife Surgery, which would be done in Sydney, could cost anything between $50,000 and $2 million, but it would cure her.

He said it had been tough to see his normally happy, sporty daughter struck down so quickly.

At home in New Zealand, she attended Whakatane Intermediate School and loved hip-hop dancing, field hockey and surf lifesaving.

All going well and once she had stabilised, she could be back home in two weeks, he said.

They would have to wait between three and six months for the brain bleed to heal before they could head to Sydney for the surgery.

He said they were fortunate that she was getting her mobility back and was able to talk.

"Thank God that we haven't had any difficulties with her. She is tired and is in bed and has been through a traumatic experience so we need to be careful with how much interaction or stimulus that she's receiving.

"At this stage we haven't noticed any remarkable any negative symptoms from that."

She was now having outpatient treatment along with more scans and tests.

Ledbetter wanted to send a big thanks to all involved, especially Dr Brown and her colleagues at Harborview Medical Center.