If you're hoping for hot days this summer, spare a thought for Alice Giltrap.

The Whanganui 17-year-old who survived a life-threatening brain injury is continuing her recovery, but she needs to keep out of the sun to ensure her brain swelling continues to decrease.

"I went to the beach yesterday when it wasn't sunny ... but it's hard because I like being in the sun ... so it's pretty hard not to go out in summer.

"[I] just basically sit around and only go out when it's not sunny. Sometimes I get headaches behind the eyes and all that, but not much [pain]."


Alice had to be flown to Wellington in September after needing emergency surgery when she suffered encephalitis, an infection that causes swelling of the brain.

She had a piece of her skull removed to allow the swelling in her brain to come down.

She's wearing black head protection gear like you would see someone in a rugby game wear.

"Because I've got no front scalp," she said. "It's protecting me."

The former Whanganui Girls College student was recently allowed to graduate but was frustrated to have to wear the head gear along with her gown.

Alice will spend Christmas out of the sun while recovering from a brain injury. Photo / Stuart Munro
Alice will spend Christmas out of the sun while recovering from a brain injury. Photo / Stuart Munro

She had very little memory of the emergency she went through.

"I remember going to the doctors and all that. The last thing I remember was going to the movies when I was really sick because I really wanted to go.

"But I fell asleep in the movie apparently and my cousin had to order everything for me because I couldn't do it, I couldn't speak."


It's likely Alice will get her surgery at the beginning of March next year to have the piece of her skull put back in.

She goes to Wellington at the end of January to be assessed and will find out then the exact date of her surgery - but it will depend on how much the swelling in her brain has gone down.

For now she has to spend most of her time at home with her mother, Maree Dowdle, caring for her.

A recent highlight for Alice was managing to go to a Stan Walker concert in November at the Opera House. There she met Stan Walker who took an interest in her injury.

"I got to meet him, so he signed my helmet," she said.

"He was kind of attached because of what he went through with his cancer. I showed him my head too, I took off my helmet and he didn't believe it."

Maree Dowdle said Alice has been told she can't work or study for the next 12 months and MRI scans showed it was likely she'll have permanent scarring on her brain.