Brave fight by teacher with listeria

Saturday July 25, 2020 Written by Caroline Williams and Losirene Lacanivalu Published in Health
Grace Archer. 20052255 Grace Archer. 20052255

As a much-loved teacher begins a slow recovery, new listeria cases in NZ spark concern. 

Ten weeks after being medevaced to Auckland in critical condition with listeria, Apii Te Uki Ou teacher Grace Archer has been allowed out of hospital in the fresh air for the first time.

Archer was flown from Rarotonga to New Zealand on May 8, and spent nearly five weeks in a coma.

She was infected with listeria bacterial meningitis – Cook Islands’ first listeria case in more than 10 years. Health ministry Te Marae Ora and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service launched an investigation.

Te Marae Ora has not disclosed any findings from the inquiry or whether anyone else is at risk; listeria can be carried in contaminated deli meats, dairy products like soft cheeses and ice cream, or in produce.

But New Zealand health authorities have announced three new cases in Tauranga: one person has died and two have been admitted to hospital. The outbreak has sparked a new investigation.

Archer was ill for about three weeks before being sent to New Zealand for further tests. On the way over, her condition rapidly declined.

Partner Theo Warrick, also a teacher at Apii Te Uki Ou, was put on an emergency flight two days later to be by her side at Auckland City Hospital’s intensive care unit while she battled encephalitis, a brain inflammation.

Family and friends have donated more than $25,000 on a Givealittlefundraising site to support the Archer’s medical care and rehabilitation.

Friend Petra Donnison is providing updates. Three weeks after beginning to emerge from a coma, Archer began communicating via an alphabet board, and could stand up with assistance a week later.

On Friday, Archer ventured outside to the Auckland Domain for the first time, with help from her therapists.

“We are so grateful for the continued support for Grace during this difficult time,” her sister Jean Archer said.

“She has amazed us all and now has a rehabilitation journey ahead that we know she will give her all to.”

The family has applied for funding so Archer can attend rehabilitation for an acquired brain injury.

Funds raised through Givealittle will go towards mobility and speech aids that are not covered by the Auckland District Health Board.

It will also help Archer’s immediate family, most who live outside of Auckland, to be by her side.

“It is so heartwarming to see the determination in her eyes,” Donnison said.

“Our hope is that one day Grace will be able to update you all herself, to acknowledge all that you have done for her.”

Apii Te Uki Ou school community has been fundraising for Archer and Warrick.

The school’s principal Mark Harris and board president Tony Fe’ao earlier said: “Grace changes the lives of all she touches and leaves a wake of warmth, happiness and love in her path. Although she only joined our school this year, she has made a considerable positive impact on our children, families and staff.”

-       Stuff / Cook Islands News

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