Mackenzie’s GIANT step back onto the court

Through months of hospital recovery and rehabilitation, 10-year-old Mackenzie has been motivated by a return to the netball court.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Kids Rehab team at The Children's Hospital at Westmead (CHW), and collaboration with GIANTS Netball, she has been able to do exactly that.

Mackenzie was an avid sports player before she suffered two severe strokes in early April, due to complications from a rare autoimmune condition known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).

She was flown from her home in Orange to CHW for urgent life-saving surgery and treatment. Her parents, Dan and Lisa, were uncertain of what the future held.

“It was an extremely tough time for our family. The doctors were honest and upfront with us. We knew things were pretty serious and we would be very lucky if she pulled through,” Dan said.

Incredibly she did, however, the severity of the strokes left her with an acquired brain injury. This affected her ability to walk, as well as her vision, hearing and movement on her left side.

“We were told she wouldn’t regain movement in her arm and that if she was ever going to walk, it would be with a walking stick,” Dan said.

“This was devastating for Kenz, and for our family, but we always said, ‘never say never’.”.

Mackenzie spent two months in hospital recovering, before moving to Ronald McDonald House Greater Western Sydney (RMHGWS) so she could continue her rehabilitation as an outpatient four hours a day, five days a week.

With the help of the Kids Rehab team, her family and her determination, Mackenzie has made huge strides in her recovery. She is now able to walk short distances and has some small movement back in her arm.

“She had a difficult road ahead but has put in so much effort and time into her recovery. Her progress has been amazing,” Dan said.

“For some kids, you might have to motivate them to do their rehab. But for Kenz, it is the opposite. If anything, we have to tell her to slow down!

“Of course, there are hard days. She finds her Occupational Therapy sessions particularly challenging because she can’t move her hand, but the incredible thing about Kenz is she builds herself back up every time and finishes the session.

Throughout her recovery journey, Mackenzie has had her sights set on returning to netball – one of her favourite sports to play.

After a visit to RMHGWS by the GIANTS netball team and the girls hearing Mackenzie’s story, a special bond was formed between the team, in particular, midcourter, Amy Parmenter and defender, Matilda McDonnell.

This prompted Amy and the Super Netball club to host a special training morning for their number one fan.

“This was an incredible opportunity for Kenz, not just for the experience she had with the GIANTS but also for the motivation it brought her afterwards,” Dan said.

“She is now even more determined to get her strength back and we can’t thank the GIANTS or her Kids Rehab team enough for that.”

Mackenzie, her family, best friend, and Kids Rehab team spent a morning together last week at the GIANTS’ Headquarters, participating in the day’s rehabilitation session, alongside their Super Netball and AFL stars.

The GIANTS and Kids Rehab team then did a personal training session run by Mackenzie, before heading off to Netball Central for training drills and a game.

Mackenzie found herself shooting alongside English international and GIANTS team captain, Jo Harten, who, in a rare occurrence, pulled on the Goal Keeper bib instead of playing in her normal position as Goal Shooter.

There were many smiles and cheers for Mackenzie as she sunk goals beside her sporting heroes, highlighting just how far she has come under the care of the Kids Rehab team.

“The Kids Rehab team have been brilliant. What they have done for Kenz to get her in a position to even contemplate a day like the one spent at GIANTS HQ, let alone be on court with them, is truly amazing,” Dan said.

“We are so proud of Kenz. Five months ago, we didn’t know if she’d make it or how she’d recover – but look at her now.”

Mackenzie will continue her day rehabilitation for the next few weeks before making the long-awaited trip back home to Orange.